The Global Biomanufacturing Capacity Problem

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While you may be aware that synthetic biology is on the rise, you may not know that there’s a major gap in the infrastructure required to manufacture all these new bioproducts.


It’s no secret that biomanufacturing is booming. More and more physical stuff - food, materials, chemicals - is being produced by engineered cells. According to Barron’s, “Synthetic biology is...drawing comparisons to the internet of a generation ago.” Big names in the industry include Amyris, Zymergen, and Gingko Bioworks, but many smaller synbio startups are following closely behind with their own bioproducts, and quickly.


Why is this happening now? The reasons for the biomanufacturing boom are threefold. First, the cost of reading and writing DNA has decreased dramatically in the last two decades. Additionally, designing new organisms is easier with recent molecular biology tools such as CRISPR and technologies like laboratory robotics that allow rapid design, building, and testing of new organisms. Lastly and perhaps most importantly, there’s strong consumer demand for bio-based products. Within the pharma industry, over 50% of new drugs are already being produced biologically. Outside of biopharma, however, is where a real shift is occurring: consumers are demanding sustainably made products - from food to clothing to plastic.


Culture’s cloud bioreactors, used for growing organisms like yeast, bacteria and animal cells under controlled conditions.


While you may be aware that synthetic biology is on the rise, you may not know that there’s a major gap in the infrastructure (bioreactors in this case) required to manufacture all these new products. Today, there are 61M liters of operating bioreactor capacity globally. Only 10M of those 61M liters are unreserved, and only 2M liters are food-grade. However, according to projections from BCG, microbes will produce 15 megatonnes of animal protein by 2030, which would require 10B liters of manufacturing capacity. That’s 100x more than the world’s existing capacity supply - and that’s only the projected demand for fermentation-based animal protein, not to mention other products like fermentation-based plastics.


Figure 1: Global manufacturing capacity - the amount that exists today and the amount needed to fulfill the projected demand in 2030 - drawn to scale.


This major gap in large-scale capacity is what Culture is aiming to address for its clients looking to scale their processes up to manufacturing, starting with pilot-scale bioreactors. You might be wondering, why not just build more of the same manufacturing plants that exist today? What’s different about Culture’s solution?


The problem is that traditional manufacturing plants can’t be built fast enough or cheaply enough to meet the growing demand. Moreover, these plants use legacy approaches that allow for very little automation or data tracking. Culture’s cloud bioreactor infrastructure, by contrast, can scale in a timely and cost-effective manner, and provides the ability to design, monitor and analyze experiments through our Cloud Console, which clients already use for bench-scale testing. Rather than having to transfer their process to an analogue pilot plant, biotech companies can develop their process in Culture’s 250mL bioreactors and scale up to 250L tanks, all in the cloud.