SilicoLife: Biofuels Digest’s 2015 5-Minute Guide

January 8, 2015 |

Company description:

Portugal’s SilicoLife develops solutions for the rational design of optimized microbial strains for the production chemicals with diversified uses, such as bio-fuels, food ingredients, chemical building blocks or biopolymers.

SilicoLife builds computational models of microbial cells and develops proprietary state-of-the-art algorithms to effectively establish the most efficient pathways between raw-materials and end-products, streamlining the strain design process and exploring non-intuitive pathway modifications. This translates in a dramatic cost cutting of development programs and reduction of laboratory experimentation. Leading chemical, materials and synthetic biology companies have chosen SilicoLife as development partner to maintain their market edge in increasingly competitive markets. Large multinationals and SMEs alike benefit from our high professional standards and lean structure that make possible to provide competitive and compelling tailor-made solutions


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The Situation

“Until recently,” the company notes, “ the maximization of productivity in bioprocesses relied on trial-and-error approaches and random mutagenesis techniques which are time-consuming and difficult to reproduce. Novel molecular biology techniques, coupled with post-genomic modelling approaches now allow the rational design of robust microbial strains for the production of desired compounds. The required know-how in the disciplines of Bioinformatics and Systems Biology to manipulate large amounts of data and mathematical models is frequently absent in chemical and biotech companies.”

Perhaps the biggest milestone in recent times for SilicoLife came in the summer of 2013, when INVISTA and computational biology company SilicoLife announced a collaboration to develop new bio-derived processes for the production of industrial chemicals. One of the initial focus areas is bio-derived production of butadiene.

The agreement leverages INVISTA’s capabilities in biotechnology and catalysis, and knowledge of the chemicals industry, and SilicoLife’s in silico metabolic engineering and rational synthetic biology capabilities for the development of new bio-based routes to industrial chemicals. At the time, Simão Soares, CEO of SilicoLife, said “The collaboration with INVISTA combines our state-of-the art engineering expertise with INVISTA’s world-class research team to accelerate the design of optimized microbial strains for the cost-effective production of industrial chemicals from renewable feedstocks.”

Soares told Wired at that time, “We design new microbes, based on metabolic engineering and synthetic biology approaches. In simple terms, we look to the microbe cell as a factory, converting feedstock to desired chemical products. SilicoLife develops genome-scale models that act as a map of all chemical reactions within the cell and we combine those maps with our algorithms in a similar way to a GPS, but in this case we are trying to maximise the overproduction of the cell factory ensuring that the cell will stay alive and productive.

“Our revenue is growing at more than 100 percent per year. Currently we are developing contracted projects with companies in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Switzerland and United States, that can be classified as Fortune 500 companies, multinational conglomerates and leaders in building block chemicals, polymers and biosynthetic development. “

Synbiobeta commented last year “How does a partnership work? The development of a chemical usually involves three steps. First, the most suitable organism is screened and modeled. Next, heterologous pathways are screened and evaluated for respective yield opportunities. Lastly, the researchers come up with robust metabolic engineering solutions that allow for overproduction of the target chemical with minimum by-products.

SilicoLife also offers custom software development for special projects, contract-research, and consulting to its customers. Just as metabolic pathways are related, the success of the company is intertwined with the success of its clients — something an elegant workflow aims to enable.”

Past Milestones

2013: SilicoLife and INVISTA, the world’s largest integrated fiber, resin and intermediates company, enter multi-year agreement to develop bio-derived raw materials.

2013: Multi-year partnership with an agri-business leader multinational.

2014: Internal carboxylic acid R&D project goes from in silico to in vivo, completed with wet lab partner

Future Milestones

2015: Establishment of two new programs in co-development for bio-based products.

2017: Licensing of the first technology developed internally to industrial partners and starting royalty revenue stream from IP.

Business Model:

Beyond a standard service provider, Silicolife seeks to establish long-term partnerships with its clients and flexible business models are possible including shared risk/return schemes. In parallel, Silicolife invests in internal R&D to design optimized microbes that over-produce selected chemical building-blocks.

Competitive Edge:

SilicoLife actively contributes to the advancement of the state-of-the-art of computational methods, new optimization strategies and algorithms specifically focused on strain optimization for industrial biotechnology. By mastering these technologies SilicoLife is able to provide robust strain optimization strategies.


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Category: 5-Minute Guide

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