BBSRC, EPSRC and IUK grant funding is secured to unlock sustainable biocatalytic hydrogenation.

HydRegen – a biotech specialist in sustainable chemical manufacturing – and researchers from the University of Nottingham’s Faculty of Engineering are collaborating on a project to unlock sustainable biocatalytic hydrogenation.

The partnership has received grant funding from BBSRC, EPSRC and IUK to complete the feasibility study.

The joint investment by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Innovate UK will help HydRegen tackle the challenges in manufacturing readiness of its technologies, by intensifying and scaling enzyme production with a focus on applying it to a demonstrator process for quinuclidinol production.

Quinuclidinol is an important chemical building-block used in the production of many important drugs and other end-products and has a variety of uses in organic synthesis. As such, it is an excellent exemplar for novel sustainable manufacturing technology.

The project, focused on intensification of metallo-enzyme production to unlock sustainable biocatalytic hydrogenation, aims to lower the cost of production for three enzymes that are critical to HydRegen’s production of the chemical building-block quninuclidinol. By validating the cost and sustainability metrics for quinuclidinol manufacture they can produce a ‘license-ready’ bio-based manufacturing route for quinuclidinol that meets the needs for reshoring key API production.

The BBSRC, EPSRC and Innovate UK are supporting 34 feasibility studies across the UK to develop and improve sustainable biomanufacturing. The programme aims to enhance UK global competitiveness by supporting research and innovation that focuses on developing new and disruptive sustainable biomanufacturing products and processes that will support UK biomanufacturing in becoming net zero and resource efficient, resilient and responsive, technologically advanced and digital by 2050.

Dr Rhiannon Evans, Head of Enzyme production and Molecular Biology at HydRegen, said: “We are excited to embark on this exciting project with Dr Simone Morra, and his team, at the University of Nottingham.

“His expertise in novel hydrogen cycling enzymes and cutting-edge knowledge will be a great asset in helping us to increase the manufacturing readiness for 3 of HydRegen’s critical metallo-enzymes and builds out our in-house R&D capabilities. This has the potential to make a step-change in HydRegen’s ability to lower cost and increase scalability of hydrogenase production.”

Dr Simone Morra, Assistant Professor at the University of Nottingham adds: “I started collaborating with HydRegen back in 2022 via a via BBSRC-NIBB funded project and I’m excited to continue working with them on this new project.

“My team and I have a deep expertise in novel hydrogenase enzymes that are able to cycle H2 and H+. These are the enzymes of interest to HydRegen due to their unusual balance in ease of production and ease of handling. We have the know-how and facilities in enzyme production spanning early-stage academic research through to evaluation of scalable enzyme production in bioreactors to transfer to HydRegen as part of this collaboration for process intensification and scale up of metallo-enzyme production.”