Combining automation, miniaturization, biology and computation (ABC) to rapidly scale up the design, construction, refinement and production of more nutritious and sustainable crops and food products.
About Engineering Biology
GIFS’ Engineering Biology facility will combine the power of automation and miniaturization, biology and computation (ABC) to rapidly scale up the design and production of more nutritious and sustainable crops and food products for Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sectors. An exploding new field, engineering biology integrates genomics and molecular biology with high-performance computing, automation and artificial intelligence – potentially transforming what we eat, medicines we take and fuels we use.
A 2020 McKinsey report estimates the ongoing bio revolution, including engineering biology, will have a global economic impact of up to $4 trillion in the next 10 to 20 years. More than a third of this direct annual impact will be in agri-food.
Through GIFS’ facility, the agriculture and food industries will be able to rapidly create reagents, proteins and peptides on a much larger scale, to make food production more efficient; to increase the nutritional value of food; and to even create entirely new food products. It will also be used to make plants and animals more resistant to drought.
The centre will also help develop new plant varieties that can withstand climate change, as well as nutritious food products and natural products with medical benefits, such as specialized proteins that kill bacteria.
The new facility positions Saskatchewan as the engineering biology centre for agriculture in Canada, growing the province’s profile as the hub for delivering biomanufacturing services to support the agri-food and biotechnology sectors.
The outcome will be the accelerated discovery, development and delivery of innovative products that meet market demand efficiently and sustainably (economically, environmentally and socially).
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Applications of engineering biology include:
- The production of rennet, a mixture of enzymes used in making cheese. Though produced naturally by some animals, rennet is now also produced safely and more efficiently through engineering biology.
- Improving plant ability to absorb more carbon from sunlight for photosynthesis, meaning they can sequester even more carbon and thus reduce emissions in the atmosphere.
- Producing flavourings that can be added to pea-based proteins to make plant-based burgers taste like regular meat-based burgers.
- Speeding up research and development in the pharmaceutical industry: Engineering biology is used to produce insulin and has also enabled the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines.