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Courtesy of Mike Allen and Steve Gschmeissner

PoC Round 2: Towards a Sustainable Route to Vitamin A production in Cyanobacteria

Principle investigator: Samantha Bryan
University of Nottingham

Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for human health, playing a vital role in processes such as vision
and reproduction. It is also an important antioxidant, involved in epithelial tissue, skeleton and
immune system maintenance. Being a fat-soluble (hydrophobic) substance, vitamin A is lost during
the milk defatting process and a derivative of vitamin A – retinyl palmitate or RP – is then added to
low fat and skimmed milk, to increase its nutritional value. RP is currently mostly produced through
chemical synthesis, in an energy-intensive process involving the use of harsh, highly corrosive
chemicals. This project will develop a sustainable process utilising modified cyanobacteria to
produce these important molecules from CO2, non-potable water, and light.
As cyanobacteria are natural producers of both β-carotene (the precursor of the “retinal half” of RP)
and palmitate (which we have shown can be produced in g/L amounts in these organisms), we will
modify marine cyanobacteria to join these two halves and produce RP in a sustainable and carbonefficient manner. We will grow the modified strains in simulated industrial waste gases and, with our
industrial partner, assess economic viability of the process at scale. Once fully developed, this
process will contribute to the establishment of a “green”, sustainable bioeconomy that reduces CO2
emissions and utilizes non-potable water for production of food additives.

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