Chemical and biological syntheses can both lead to a myriad of compounds. Biology enables us to harness the metabolism of microbial cell factories to produce key target molecules from renewable biomass-derived substrates. Although bio-based feedstocks are sustainably sourced and more benign than the rapidly depleting fossil fuels that chemical processes have historically relied on, limiting pathways solely to biological reactions may not equate to a greener process overall. In fact, bioreactors rely on substantial quantities of water and can be inefficient since organisms typically operate around ambient conditions and are sensitive to perturbations in their environment. Hybridizing biosynthetic pathways with green chemistry can instead be a more potent strategy to reduce our net manufacturing footprint. Emerging chemistries have demonstrated considerable success in performing complex transformations on biological feedstocks without significant solvent use. Many of these transformations would be too slow to perform enzymatically or infeasible altogether. Here, we put forth the concept that by carefully considering the merits and drawbacks of synthetic biology and chemistry as well as one's own use case, there exist many opportunities for coupling the two. Merging these syntheses can unlock a wider suite of functional group transformations, thereby enabling future manufacturing processes to sustainably access a larger space of valuable, platform chemicals.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biomedical Engineering