Microbial Biotechnology 4.0 - Marjan De Mey

Everyone has their own custom-made microbial cell factory.

Microbial Biotechnology: 1.0 - 3.0Prof. Marjan De Mey

Whereas Microbial Biotechnology 1.0 was mainly limited to the use of wild type microorganisms and their enzymes for the production of biomolecules (e.g. wine, beer, and penicillin), Microbial Biotechnology 2.0 is characterized by the use of recombinant DNA technology to transform the microbial cell into an improved cell factory of non-own biomolecules.

At this stage, these were mainly simpler molecules such as human peptide insulin or industrial enzymes such as chymosin and lipases.

In 2020, the application of new technologies such as synthetic biology has led to the creation of microbial cell factories that can synthesize more complex molecules such as plant metabolites, human milk sugars and so on (Microbial Biotechnology 3.0).

New era: Microbial Biotechnology 4.0

By 2050 there will be a new era of microbial biotechnology, Microbial Biotechnology 4.0.

Thanks to the integration of synthetic biology with emerging technologies such as machine learning and nanosciences, it will be possible to build custom-made microbial cell factories and apply them everywhere where we can't think of them yet.

Print cells

For example, it will be possible to use apps to find out what the best shape, composition and materials are for clothing and shoes.

In this way one can then print microbial cells in the desired shape to give the best support, ventilation and protection.

These properties will be able to adapt dynamically to the ambient conditions (temperature and humidity).

Microbial cell factories

Microbial cells will also be used as a sensor in humans and animals to detect hormonal imbalances or diseases at an early stage, after which these cells reprogram themselves to prevent or cure them.

Furthermore, each house will have its own microbial cell factory, where the microbial cells break down waste and capture CO2 and other airborne contaminants and convert them into energy for the house.

These cells will dynamically adapt to the environment and demand to optimize the energy supply. In addition, these microbial cell factories can be personalized by synthesizing a range of fragrances, where the desired fragrance is selected via an app.

Microbial Biotechnology 4.0 will take full advantage of the diversity of nature and use it dynamically to improve the quality of life of people.

The multidisciplinarity of the bio-engineers makes them ideally suited to take a leading role in this.