Dr Jude Huggan, Business Development Manager, NCIMB
As society transitions away from fossil fuels, it’s not only our energy sources that need to be replaced with sustainable alternatives – we also need to find alternatives to a host of fossil-fuel derived ingredients found in products that most people use every day.
The personal care sector has an advantage over some other chemical-using industries in this transition. Positive perception and reputation are essential to the commercial success of personal care products, and consumers are increasingly demanding products that align with their values on sustainability. There is a long history of using natural ingredients within this sector, but of course many products also still contain basic ingredients that are fossil-fuel derived.
Biotechnology could provide the innovation required to manufacture these ingredients, but there are still obstacles to be overcome before a complete transition to sustainable bio-based personal care products can be achieved. These include scaling up the technologies to produce truly industrial quantities; developing and recruiting a talent pipeline and skilled workforce, and ensuring robust supply-chains are created to provide a consistent feedstock supply. These challenges have been well documented, and although there are some great examples of companies using microorganisms to produce bio-based ingredients at scale, I wonder if we’re doing enough to find and develop microorganisms with useful functional properties?
This is where microbial culture collections have a massive role to play. Not only do culture collections preserve and store a wide variety of organisms for the international research community, they also provide industry with strains that can be screened for novel functionality.
NCIMB houses the UK’s largest publicly accessible collection of microorganisms with this kind of industrial potential. It’s a diverse collection that includes strains from an array of sources, including freshwater, soil, and marine environments to name but a few. The collection also includes many organisms isolated from extreme environments, and this is of note because extremophiles can be an especially rich source of useful compounds. In short, the NCIMB collection is a fantastic genetic resource for organisations looking to develop bio-based raw materials and ingredients.
I’m delighted to be showcasing NCIMB and our fantastic microbial collection to delegates at the upcoming workshop, organised the High Value Biorenewables Network, in York. This event, on July 11th, will bring industry leaders from across the personal care sector together with researchers and other key stakeholders to discuss the role for industrial biotechnology in reducing the environmental impact of the personal care industry.
Culture collections like NCIMB’s could play an important role in accelerating the transition to sustainable manufacture of many of the chemical ingredients used in the manufacture of personal care products, so I’m really looking forward to making new connections and discussing how that potential can be harnessed to develop effective bio-based solutions for the sector.
You can find out more about our strains on our culture collection pages.
Dr Judith Huggan
Not only do culture collections preserve and store a wide variety of organisms for the international research community, they also provide industry with strains that can be screened for novel functionality.