STTR Phase I: Recombinant production of anthocyanins in a GRAS microorganism

Period of Performance: 01/01/2016 - 12/31/2016


Phase 1 STTR

Recipient Firm

Conagen inc
15 DeAngelo Drive
Bedford, MA 01730
Firm POC, Principal Investigator

Research Institution

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
110 8th Street
Troy, NY 12180
Institution POC


The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) project will be the microbial production by fermentation of a group of natural food colorants, called anthocyanins, which will benefit the environment, the food industry, and society as a whole. The fermentation production process provides a "green chemistry" approach to issues usually encountered in traditional chemical synthesis, such as hazardous catalysts, and eliminates a solvent waste problem typically associated with extraction of natural compounds from botanicals. The proposed work will lead to a greater understanding of the anthocyanin biosynthetic pathway, and result in a lower cost of production of these compounds. Innovation and understanding of the biochemical pathways and process optimization will help serve the potentially multi-billion dollar global market for high purity natural food colorants as food ingredients, as health care products, and in therapeutic applications. This STTR Phase I project proposes to engineer microorganisms that are Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS), and are currently used for the production of several food additives as microbial cell factories for the production of various anthocyanin molecules. Preliminary work on the biosynthesis of the anthocyanins, using metabolically engineered Escherichia coli recombinant strains, has demonstrated feasibility of this bio-economic approach. Initial work will involve the introduction of plant metabolic pathways in microorganisms via various gene-splicing methods. Further process optimization will be undertaken by improving fermentation conditions and by performing an initial scale-up using the recombinant microorganisms. This microbial fermentation strategy will help enhance the production of such beneficial natural food colorants through a biomanufactuing approach utilizing principles of synthetic biology and metabolic engineering and other emerging biotechnologies.