Eliminating Barriers in Biomanufacturing to Improve Bioproduct Scale-up


The Agile BioFoundry and Enduro, a startup company, recently began a collaboration that will address a common challenge in biomanufacturing.

The field of biomanufacturing has long been successful at using microbes to sustainably produce an increasingly broad range of valuable bioproducts. 

“But there is one very important challenge when we are making microbes that produce valuable products, and that’s when we want to make lots of it,” said Enduro CEO Peter Rugbjerg. “There’s a difference between making it in the lab, and then actually turning it into a scalable process.”

In any bioprocess, cells tend to stop making the target product within a relatively short period of time. Keeping cells highly productive is still a significant challenge in biomanufacturing.

Enduro has developed a genetic plugin called Enduro Sense that programs cells so that they maintain production, allowing bioprocesses to be scaled. 

Together with Agile BioFoundry’s team, they will work to demonstrate more cases with this biosensor that informs cells when they are being highly productive. The biosensor then makes the cells divide when they are making a lot of product. 

“The cells’ natural incentive is to stop making high amounts of product,” Rugbjerg said. “When the sensor recognizes there’s not a lot of product being made, the sensor will then switch off that cell and it will stop growing. We can then keep production stable over a longer period of time.”

Rugbjerg explained that, previously, new biosensors needed to be made for each type of product researchers wanted to detect, making it a time-consuming process. 

“We’ve shown that we can implement this technology with various products in various different organisms,” Rugbjerg said. This coincides with the Agile BioFoundry’s work in non-model organisms. 

Another aspect of the project is working with the Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts Process Development Unit (ABPDU) to test the scalability of Enduro’s technology. 

“We’ll give them different strains with this new technology, Enduro Sense, and they will characterize it and demonstrate how it works up to a relatively large scale,” Rugbjerg said.

The teams’ findings will be shared publicly — they hope insights gained from this collaboration will be able to benefit the larger biotechnology industry. 

“We want to push the edge,” Rugbjerg said. “That’s why it’s so great to be working with the Agile BioFoundry and the ABPDU, because they are known to be ambitious and talented.”

“Understanding and countering microbial heterogeneity in bioreactors during the progression of fermentations is imperative to the success of any bioprocess. Enduro has generated unique and essential technologies that we are very excited to deploy in this project,” said Deepti Tanjore, Director of ABPDU.

This collaboration between the Agile BioFoundry and industry is one of eight projects totaling over $5 million announced in 2020 by the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct research and development needed to accelerate the U.S. biomanufacturing sector.

The Agile BioFoundry is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Technologies Office.