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UK scientists discover how to make soap from bacteria

By Michelle Yeomans+

11-Feb-2015
Last updated on 11-Feb-2015 at 13:30 GMT2015-02-11T13:30:40Z

UK scientists discover how to make soap from bacteria

Scientists at TeeGene Biotech, an arm of Middlesbrough University, have developed unique strains of bacteria which produce biosurfactants, which act like soap and help to emulsify different liquids.

Unlike traditional surfactants which are made using synthetic materials, biosurfactants can be manufactured in a lab, are fully biodegradable and have minimal impact on the environment, making them much more economical and efficient.

The biosurfactant market in Europe is already worth £511 million and is expected to grow to £1.35 billion by 2030.

Researchers at TeeGene Biotech say this discovery has made it possible to scale production to meet the demands of industry ranging from cosmetics to biopharmaceuticals.

According to founding director, Dr Pattanathu Rahman; 'The levels of purity needed for biosurfactants in the industries in which they’re used is extremely high.'

'Because of this, they can be very expensive. However, the methods we have of producing them, make it much more economical and cost efficient.
'It’s a very exciting technology with tremendous potential for applications in a range of industries.'

Rahman is a senior lecturer in Process Engineering and Biotechnology at the University with 20 years of experience on novel biotechnological approach in bioproduct development, and a recipient of a Society for Applied Technology (SAB) Award of Excellence in Microbial Biotechnology. 

Recognition from industry 

The team's research has seen the company reach the finals of the Industrial Biotechnology Leadership Forum (IBLF) awards which take place at the Industrial Biotechnology Showcase in London on February 11th and 12th.

"It’s a great honour to be invited to these awards, there will be leading figures from all over the UK from the biotechnology industry. As a relatively young company it’s fantastic that we’re already getting this recognition," says Rahman. 

The event brings together leading figures from industry, academia and government agencies and will be opened by Rt Hon George Freeman, the Minister for Life Sciences.

Each of the finalists will take part in a five minute Dragons’ Den style pitch to judge

About TeeGene

TeeGene Biotech was formed in December 2014 and is based in the Wilton Centre at Redcar. 

The company is also developing links with the National Biologics Manufacturing Centre, which is under development adjacent to Teesside University’s campus in Darlington.

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