Industrial Biotechnology

The details
Life Sciences (School of)
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 13 December 2024
02 May 2024


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MSC C56012 Biotechnology

Module description

In this module, we will cover microbial biodiversity and how to access it, e.g. using metagenomics.

The module will consider the principles of enzymatic reactions and state-of-the-art approaches being used to improve them. We will examine the evolution of techniques to enhance metabolite yield and diversity, using metabolic pathway engineering and systems biology approaches. We will consider diverse examples in which biology has been exploited to make useful products, ranging from pharmaceuticals, vitamins, amino acids, biofuels, electricity, biomaterials and nano-products.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • Explore the advantages and disadvantages of biological vs traditional chemical processes.

  • Learn about the fundamental mechanisms that underpin industrial biotechnology.

  • Consider the importance of biological diversity.

  • Gain an understanding of the main applications of biotechnology in industry, focusing on novel technologies.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Understand the fundamental mechanisms that underpin industrial biotechnology.

  2. Explain the importance of biological diversity, and the approaches used to enhance natural diversity in order to create new products.

  3. Illustrate the advantages (and disadvantages) of biological compared with traditional chemical processes.

  4. Describe how multi-disciplinary approaches are resulting in new processes and hybrid materials.

  5. Outline the main applications of biotechnology in industry, focusing on novel technologies.

Module information

The immense diversity and metabolic versatility of microorganisms are beginning to be exploited in an ever-increasing number of industrial applications. The advantages of using microorganisms, as outlined below, are manifold, but unless bio-industrial processes are competitive with traditional methods their potential will not be realised.

By using new and exciting techniques to manipulate genes, natural diversity can be extended to increase yield, rate and specificity, thereby making reactions more efficient and economical.

The drive towards sustainable development has led to a green revolution in chemistry. Microbial transformations require milder conditions than chemically catalysed reactions and are more specific, resulting in cleaner, greener processes. Renewable raw materials, and even waste products, can be worked by microorganisms to create useful products ranging from fuels to food supplements, reducing reliance on non-sustainable, petroleum-based products. Moreover, biotransformations can result in stereo- and regio-selective products, which are becoming a prerequisite for the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and other so-called 'fine chemicals'.

Some microbial products, such as bioadhesives and biopolymers, are biodegradable, which not only serves to protect the environment, but also improves targeted drug delivery. From using Bacillus species as templates for silicone nano-devices to the employment of bacteriorhodopsin as an information storage device, even the computer industry cannot escape the impact of microorganisms.

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • Twenty 1-hour lectures.


This module does not appear to have any essential texts. To see non - essential items, please refer to the module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr James Birrell, email:
Prof Terry McGenity, Prof Jonathan Worrall, Dr Dima Svistunenko, Dr James Birrell
School Graduate Office, email: bsgradtaught (Non essex users should add to create a full email address)



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
No lecture recording information available for this module.


Further information
Life Sciences (School of)

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