Production of protein pharmaceuticals currently uses organisms that contribute to atmospheric CO2 levels and global warming. By replacing carbon-producing bacteria with carbon-absorbing bacteria, IU professor David Kehoe and his collaborators aim to create an environmentally beneficial pharmaceutical production system.
Kehoe’s team is working to develop biotechnology systems using the fast-growing, photosynthetic bacterium Synechococcus. This bacterium relies on sunlight for growth rather than reduced carbon, cutting production energy costs and removing the need for feedstocks. Synechococcus also consumes CO2 during growth, so it can be used to scrub carbon from combustion gases created during pharmaceutical production. In postproduction, Synechococcus waste has the potential to be used in microbiomass conversion systems to produce local electricity, enhancing the economic competitiveness of this method even more.
Additionally, Kehoe’s team is working to optimize the production of biopharmaceuticals to aid in the treatment of several medical conditions, including diabetes, cancer, septic shock, and ischemia.