Editorial: Flavors of international biotechnology

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Abstract

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This issue of Biotechnology Journal celebrates the successful conclusion of the 15th International Biotechnology Symposium – IBS2012, held in Daegu, South Korea, and organized by the Asian Federation of Biotechnology – AFOB). The articles in this issue showcase the diverse research in biotechnology conducted in various countries.

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Biotechnology is playing increasingly important roles in many areas including the healthcare and chemical industries. As such, many, if not all, countries are putting much effort to realize the bio-economy. From September 16-21, 2013, the 15th International Biotechnology Symposium was held in Daegu, Republic of Korea. Both of us attended the symposium and enjoyed much of the latest results in biosciences and biotechnology and also the 5000-year-old Korean culture. This issue of Biotechnology Journal celebrates successful conclusion of the IBS2012, and presents collection of papers from many countries.

IBS2012 was an impressive event organized by the relatively young learned society, the Asian Federation of Biotechnology (AFOB). IBS2012 was the second international event of the AFOB (the first being the Asian Congress on Biotechnology – see also the related BTJ special issue [1]) and demonstrated the momentum of biotechnology in Asia.

The current issue provides a flavor of the topics presented at the IBS2012. Ba and colleagues [2] from China report the characterization and engineering of an important industrial enzyme: the authors characterize a P450 enzyme from Streptomyces carbophilus that stereo-selectively converts mevastatin into pravastatin, focusing on its redox partner. Reconstitution of a functional hybrid P450sca-2 system in Escherichia coli with putidaredoxin (Pdx) and putidaredoxin reductase (Pdr) from Pseudomonas putida together with the use of a mutant enzyme resulted in a more than 3-fold improvement in the pravastatin yield by the whole cell biotransformation. This approach will be useful for engineering other P450 enzymes requiring unnatural redox partners.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are important to serve as precursors for many biologically active molecules. The main source of PUFAs in the human diet is from fish. PUFAs have been widely used in food, pharmaceutical and medical industries. Klempova and colleagues [3] from Slovakia and Czech republic report the potential of Zygomycetes fungi as a producer of both carotenoids and PUFAs.

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The human therapeutic protein market is continuously expanding and bioprocess engineering is a central part to improve and simplify processes. In this issue, two examples of how biochemical engineering science contributes to a deeper process understanding and consequently forms the basis for further process optimization. PEGylation, the covalent attachment of polyethylene glycol (PEG) chains to protein, has proven to be a method for producing recombinant proteins with improved characteristics such as prolonged in vivo half-life and reduced side effects. Yoshimoto et al. [4] from Japan report how the retention behavior of PEGylated proteins can be understood quantitatively. They also report how PEGylation reaction can be controlled using a solid-phase on-column reaction procedure after examining several different chromatography media.

Hakemeyer and colleagues [5] from Germany and Portugal demonstrate the effects of changes in basal and feed media on monoclonal antibody production by Chinese hamster ovary cells. They use near-infrared and two dimensional fluorescence spectroscopic analyses in detecting chemical changes over time in two media. The work itself is straightforward, but the results are of significant practical importance to those who are producing monoclonal antibodies by cultivation of Chinese hamster ovary cells.

Pharmaceutical proteins are currently being produced using several different mammalian hosts. Obviously, development of super-producing cell line is a key factor in establishing cell culture-based protein production system. Lanza and colleagues [6] from the USA report the results of their investigation involving four different antibiotics in developing human cell lines. They show that Zeocin is the best selection agent for human cell line development.

Human pluripotent stem cells have been attracting much attention as they are important cell sources for the expansion and differentiation into specialized cells for use in transplantation and other medical applications. The use of human pluripotent stem cells obviously requires accurate control of cell fate decisions by exogenous factors. Titmarsh and colleagues [7] from Australia report combined use of continuous flow microbioreactor arrays and defined biochemical conditions, and in situ reporter-based readouts to create a screening platform for pluripotent stem cell maintenance with enhanced data throughput and microenvironmental control. This microbioreactor array platform should be useful in understanding the interplay among different factors, and in better understanding microenvironmental control of cell fate.

Automated design of synthetic protein sequences from first-principles is a big challenge in the field. Suárez-Diez and muti-national group members [8] from the Netherlands, Portugal and France report development of a first-principles methodology to increase the weight of the electrostatic interactions within the design process. This methodology can be used to engineer proteins that conditionally fold to become active in a particular solvent of interest.

... BTJ's first Impact Factor is 3446 ...

Polymeric nanoparticles can be used for drug delivery. Liu and Zhao [9] from China report the preparation of the chitosan/sodium alginate polyelectrolyte complex nanoparticles, which have near-monodisperse particle size of about 160 nm. The nanoparticles synthesized exhibited pH-stable structure, pH-responsive properties with negatively or positively charged surface. They also report the use of such nanoparticles as a pH-stimuli responsive drug delivery system.

As complete genome sequences of increasing number of organisms have become available, genome-scale metabolic flux simulation has become important to understand the characteristics of metabolism and consequently to develop metabolic engineering strategies. It has been rather difficult to perform the kinetic analysis due to a lack of in vivo kinetic information. Heijnen and Verheijen [10] from the Netherlands report on the aspects governing the in vivo estimation of kinetic parameters in metabolic networks. This concise mini-review presents several important points to consider, in order to be able to perform genome-wide kinetic simulation in the future.

In many biotech disciplines, including metabolic engineering, gene knockout experiments are inevitably required to develop strains of desired characteristics. However, the most popular method of gene knockout in E. coli still requires more than a week to perform. Also, the same steps need to be repeated sequentially to knock out multiple genes. Song and Lee [11] from Republic of Korea report the development of a simple gene knockout strategy using an integration helper plasmid-based system. The idea is simple in that the integration helper plasmid containing two recombinases was used. They used the method to rapidly knockout single and multiple genes. This method should be useful for knocking out genes in E. coli with less effort and in less time.

As briefly reviewed above, the contributions from 11 countries including Australia, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, and the USA included in this issue nicely showcase the biotechnology research activities around the world. We envisage Biotechnology Journal serving as an important platform to share the state-of-the-art discoveries and developments in biotechnology around the world. We are proud that Asian Federation of Biotechnology selected Biotechnology Journal as its official journal. It is worthwhile to mention that Biotechnology Journal's first Impact Factor has just been released – 3446 – we would like to thank all authors, readers and our editorial board members for their enthusiastic support over the years and look forward to continue serving the biotechnology community.

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Prof. Sang Yup Lee, Co-Editor-in-Chief Biotechnology Journal, E-mail: leesy@kaist.ac.kr

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Prof. Alois Jungbauer, Co-Editor-in-Chief Biotechnology Journal, E-mail: alois.jungbauer@boku.ac.at