Research and Collaboration

Creating an international innovation hub for engineering biology

Project Description

The Engineering Biology Research Center (EGBRC) has been creating an international innovation hub for engineering biology through industry-university-government collaboration. In 2022, the EGBRC started the international joint research project, ‘Development of the next-generation bio-foundry through interdisciplinary co-creation’. The two main aims of the project are as follows:

1. The development and application of a novel research engine for bioproduction
We aim to develop bioprocesses for the sustainable production of commodities and liquid fuels (that are conventionally obtained from petroleum) from biomass. So far, we have developed the following technologies: pretreatment for biomass such as plants and algae, fermentation using pretreated materials, technology to scale-up fermentation processes, and purification of fermented products. We have also created a ‘biorefinery’ process for producing various useful molecules from biomass. In addition, we have succeeded in implementing various bioprocesses in cooperation with numerous private companies.

2. Joint development of elemental technologies to advance Kobe University’s unique Design-Build-Test-Learn (DBTL) cycle for smart cell development
In our previous research, we developed the DBTL platform to discover unknown enzymes. To improve this platform, we have applied the DBTL cycle to the development of various biotechnologies that can produce high yields of functional and raw materials for pharmaceuticals. Our center has developed many unique biotechnologies and applied them to the construction of new cells and microorganisms, as well as to the development of bioprocesses. This includes advanced bioechnologies such as 1) Target-AID (genome editing technology that does not cut DNA) and DNA assembly technology, 2) metabolomics that enable dynamic metabolic analysis, and 3) metabolic simulation technology that can generate hypotheses, as well as data-driven enzyme engineering technology. Furthermore, we recently developed robots that automatically conduct bio-experiments and collect large amounts of data.

This three-year project was awarded the Kobe University Strategic International Collaborative Research Grant (Type B: Fostering Joint Research). Working with various overseas partners, we will implement information analysis technology such as machine learning and an automatic experiment system using robots in biomanufacturing. This will enable us to establish an advanced “biofoundry”, where microbial strains and enzymes required by society can be efficiently produced in an extremely short amount of time.

Comments from the Project Leader

Professor HASUNUMA Tomohisa (Professor of the Engineering Biology Research Center)

Established on July 1, 2018, the EGBRC at Kobe University is charged with the mission of exploring the frontiers of engineering biology by leveraging Kobe University’s unique features and strengths. The EGBRC is the sole research center in Japan that aims to create innovation in this emerging interdisciplinary field. Our goal is to make the EGBRC a hub for innovation that combines “hardware,” or tangibles such as research space and equipment, and “software,” or intangibles such as researchers and intellectual property. We will achieve this by building and expanding a research and development platform while simultaneously promoting advanced research and development through industry-university-government collaboration.

International Collaboration

The EGBRC has accumulated world-class research achievements and demonstrated a global presence through various international joint research. Our center was one of the first to engage in international research on synthetic biology, and held the first official conference of the Global Biofoundry Alliance (GBA) in Kobe. Our cutting-edge research has been carried out in the midst of active international research exchange activities, leading to the publication of numerous highly-regarded international co-authored papers Our many granted projects are testament to our extensive experience in international collaborative activities including JSPS bilateral exchange programs (South Africa (twice), China), JST/CREST international joint research (China, Taiwan) and the SATREPS project (Southeast Asia), in addition to holding international symposiums at least twice a year under the JST Program for Creating Innovation Creation Centers in Advanced Interdisciplinary Areas. The EGBRC has also established close relationships with many leading research groups (see the EGBRC List of Collaborators).

The project will advance existing international joint research based on the relationship of trust that has been built up over a long period of time with world-class researchers. In addition, we will promote the active participation of many young researchers, improving their international outlook with regards to their  advanced research areas. In this way we will develop the next generation of world-leading researchers. We will establish programs for bilateral visits between Kobe and collaborators’ institutions, especially for young researchers. In this context, we will create the next generation of internationally minded human resources and realize sustainable international collaboration through research exchange.

Information on related research facilities