White biotechnology and synthetic biology

18 Oct White biotechnology and synthetic biology

National Academy of Technologies of France (NATF)

Biotechnology is the application of S&T to living organisms. White biotechnology (Bio-Based Industries – BBl) uses renewable carbon sources  in fermentation processes to produce food compounds, fuels, specialties and chemical commodities, and plastics.  Synthetic biology (SB) introduces engineering principles into biotechnology, promoting the emergence of a true bio-economy.  Although endowed with a well-developed agriculture and BBI-related research, there are only about a dozen companies engaged in applications of SB to BBl in France, including start-ups, intermediate enterprises, and Total, resulting in few industrial realisations. The sector is considered risky by investors.  A consistent effort to train  engineers and PhD-students in these areas is essential.  Regarding risks, traditional BBI-products must be distinguished from SB-products in specific sectors. Upstream from industrial SB-applications on a large scale, research on the security, safety, ethics, toxicology and ecotoxicology is vital.  The academic SB community self-regulates its conduct in an effort of openness, transparency, anticipation and prevention of potential risks.

Working-group leader: Pierre Monsan, director “Toulouse White Biotechnology” and NATF Fellow.

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