The SECRETed project will fully exploit the potential of Systems and Synthetic Biology toolboxes and their application within aquatic biotechnology to develop novel hybrid compounds for the agrochemical, pharmaceutical, cosmetic and chemistry sectors. Biosynthetic pathways of marine and extremophilic microorganisms will be reverse engineered to infer the individual roles of their constituent genes, which will be further combined for the production of non-natural biosurfactants and siderophores with tailor-made properties. Biosurfactants are compounds with surface-active nature tendency to adsorb at interfaces, while siderophores have the ability to chelate and transport Fe3+ ions. An iterative procedure following the Design-Build-Test-Learn methodological steps will be used to produce new microbial strains that support the selected genetic elements and satisfy sustainable industrial processing solutions for the production of biosurfactants and siderophores.

The amphiphilic nature of biosurfactants and marine siderophores provides an exciting opportunity to develop methods of biosynthesis that would enable the exchange of their hydrophobic and hydrophilic chemical parts enabling the development of new-to-nature compounds.

The development of such hybrid molecules would allow the exploration of new-to-nature compounds endowed with the combination of their respective properties, to address new applications. Machine Learning algorithms, inspection of databases, and new experimental and computational-based data will be employed to build a unique microbial amphiphilic compound chemical space to identify the desired genetic mechanisms. Detected genes will be reverse engineered to standardise and modularise associated metabolic elements, with a purpose to broaden their benefits by searching for Industrial-driven formulations based on suitable microbial hosts.

The SECRETed concept is structured based on the following
aspects in order to overcome technical and economic challenges and to drive the
production of tailor-made biosurfactants and amphipathic siderophores “from lab
to application”:

  • Development of a biosurfactant and siderophores biochemical database including molecular structures, physicochemical characteristics, bioactivities, metabolic pathways and associated genetic clusters mechanisms for the characterisation of Molecular Families and the analysis and biosynthesis of target molecules.
  • Exploring “Mix and Match” strategies integrated with metabolic and process engineering for the selection and combination of biochemical synthesis genes to produce new-to-nature molecules.
  • Test the use of biosurfactants and amphiphilic siderophores as antitumor agents.
  • Explore the use of novel biosurfactants in coacervation and nano-encapsulation methods to be applied in multiple industrial fields (agrochemical, cosmetic, nutritional and pharmaceutical industry).
  • Explore their role in promoting the use in medicines based on gene therapy by protecting RNA molecules (controlled in vivo delivery of RNAi).
  • Study the potential of new siderophores formulations to enhance diagnostic or therapeutic potential.

New products management covering the development of engineering, R&D and operational aspects as well as marketing, supply chain and legal issues.