Living Systems


Bioprocessing

Technical Applications

Summary

Bioprocessing is the use of microbal, plant, or animal cells for the production of chemical compounds. Bioprocessing exploits a range of biological phenomena extending from the fermentation processes to produce beer, wine, and commercial ethanol products to state-of-the-art processes for the production of specialty chemicals such as enzymes, amino acids, biocatalysts, and pharmaceuticals. Such production methods can be more energy efficient, product specific and environmentally friendly than traditional methods of organic synthesis.

Characteristics

Bioprocessing exploits a range of biological phenomena extending from the fermentation processes to produce beer, wine, and commercial ethanol products to state-of-the-art processes for the production of specialty chemicals such as enzymes, amino acids, biocatalysts, and pharmaceuticals. Such production methods can be more energy efficient, product specific and environmentally friendly than traditional methods of organic synthesis.

ImpactEconomy

One specific bioprocessing technology is mineral extraction or biomining. Biomining utilizes microbes that leach out minerals without the harsh conditions of physical mining methods, while improving recovery rates and reducing capital expenses and operating costs. Now widely used, about 25 percent of worldwide copper production is based on bioprocessing, and applications to gold and phosphate extraction are promising. Bioprocessing supports a number of national goals. It creates jobs in the food, pharmaceutical, chemical, mining, and biotechnology industries, and contributes to the competitiveness of those industries in global markets. By creating possibilities for new and highly specific chemical production, bioprocessing allows the creation of new drugs which supports the health of U.S. citizens. It also supports national security by providing better medicines and organic compounds for the use of the military.

WorldView

European and Japanese technical capabilities in human therapeutics lag those of the United States; however, Europe lags only slightly and is improving. Efforts in human therapeutics in Europe have been led by the United Kingdom-- which has Europe's largest biotechnology industry--but significant technical capabilities also exist in both France and Germany. New biopharmaceuticals are being developed in Europe for such wide ranging applications as treatments for shock, asthma, and cancer.