Microbial fermentation has been utilized for several decades as a manufacturing process to make proteins, as well as a range of other metabolites including antibiotics, steroids, amino acids, polysaccharides and lipids. Over the last decade however, the potential of fermentation-based manufacturing to create proteins in a sustainable, scalable and cost-effective process has expanded considerably.
This rapid shift in the attractiveness of protein fermentation is largely due to recent advances in synthetic biology and genetic engineering that allow complex metabolic pathways to be transferred from various organisms into microbial production hosts. This has resulted in an exponential increase in the number of new or existing protein-based products, including advanced foods and other advanced materials, that are now genuine candidates for the use of microbial fermentation processes.
To meet growing market demand for the use of protein-based products that have a sustainable ecological footprint, substantial efforts are now underway to utilize microbial fermentation-based processes to transition animal-derived sources such as meat, skin, silk, milk and eggs. Over the last few years, this market shift has rapidly accelerated due to a reduction in fermentation manufacturing costs, increases in reactor capacities, and the ability to achieve a consistent level of high quality during all stages of scale-up. In parallel, the process of creating high-performance strains has also become simpler, faster and more automated.
Consequently, many biotechnology, food and advanced material developers are now seeking to develop and commercialize their protein-based products utilizing microbial fermentation processes. In most cases however, the industrialization of a product reliant upon protein-based fermentation will only be possible when a CDMO partner is engaged that has the necessary combination of pilot to large-scale manufacturing assets, process knowhow and technical expertise.