Genome Canada awarded Professor Harry Brumer of UBC’s Michael Smith Laboratories — and project co-lead with Professor Emma Master of UofT — a grant of $9.5 million for a research project, SYNBIOMICS: Functional genomics and techno-economic models for advanced polymer synthesis. The grant funds research over 4 years in biomass utilization to define and synthesize structures of complex biopolymers into valuable products for biorefinery, chemical and forest industries.
The core aspect of the SYNBIOMICS project is upgrading biomass. Professor Brumer’s research mines the natural diversity of the enzyme population for new biocatalysts from cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. The project will harness key benefits of a biocatalytic approach (e.g., catalytic selectivity) while overcoming major challenges of biotechonologies developed to breakdown lignocellulose structures such as high enzyme loading and incomplete conversion.
The SYNBIOMICS project partners with researchers from Concordia University, Queen’s University and industries from the forestry and chemical sectors across Canada. The project aims to bridge the wealth of genomic information to the development of bioproducts, and thereby lay a solid foundation for the long-term development of forest biorefineries.
The integration of these activities is outlined as 7 stages in Figure 1.
Figure1_Overview of Research Plan (PDF file)
A major part of the SYNBIOMICS project would be validation of the techno-economic aspect of the research; are the technologies better and are they better at a good cost? To facilitate commercialization, the project will develop roadmaps to foster small and medium-sized enterprises and pulp mill ecosystems that will work synergistically. The bioproducts and bioprocesses developed by the project are expected to expand Canada’s role in global bioproduct markets and capitalize on our historical investments in infrastructure and know-how in resource extraction and management, creating lasting knowledge-based economic opportunities for Canada’s forest sector and rural communities.