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A Pathway to Circularity

John McDougall

Oct 4, 2023

SynBioBlox Innovations tackles global sustainability through synthetic biology, integrating AI and machine learning to rapidly develop efficient, scalable solutions for reducing GHG emissions and addressing environmental challenges.

See original article on LinkedIn

Our world evolved over the millennia from hunter/gatherers to a very different dominant lifestyle, from living in balance with nature to attempting to conquer nature.  We have gone from 100 million people 4000 years ago, to 8 billion today and will likely exceed 10 billion by 2050.

After the industrial revolution, urbanization became relentless and value chains stretched internationally.  Much of the world population now lives in cities which are steadily becoming larger.  By 2050, 6.5 billion people will likely live on just 1 million square kilometres of land (roughly 1 % of the earth’s land area).  That’s 6500 people per square kilometre.

Consumption is increasing even faster than the population and is projected to be over 55 kg per capita per day by 2050. 

The global consequences of rising population density, consumption and levels of waste are all around us – visibly in things like air pollution, land fills, discarded waste, floating islands of plastic, toxic waste, species loss, and air and land degradation. Less visible but perhaps more important, in loss of nutrition in food, respiratory problems, allergies and many other direct and indirect health effects.

Today we realize humanity has overwhelmed nature.

For sustainability, our human activities should leave the world at least as healthy as it was when we entered it.  The production, use and disposal of natural resources and the products we manufacture must change – ideally in ways that retain the advantages and benefits we have come to rely on.  That means thinking more about circularity – and behaving more like Mother Nature.

The living world is designed to achieve balance.  What is waste to one organism is food for another.  Organisms respond and evolve based on the environment around them – as organic populations rise and fall, environmental pressures develop, and availability of nutrients vary.  Biological organisms are self-replicating nano-machines that naturally evolve to a sustainable balance within their environment.

With the rise of mega cities, we should concentrate on making and remaking the things we use and the waste we produce many times over, say within a 100 km diameter.  There are so many variations in living environments – “in, on, over and under different parts of the world” – that pretty much any molecule associated with food, energy, materials or chemicals is processed or produced by organisms, somewhere in nature. 

The major challenge is that natural processes happen slowly and often have large footprints.  So, we need to “industrialize Mother Nature” – improve natural productivity, simplify value chains, eliminate intermediary processes, reuse waste streams, manage toxic emissions and avoid viruses – all in a manner that is reasonably economical. 

This is not going to be easy.  However, synthetic biology provides the base technologies we need.  Bio-engineering combines the principles of cell biology with the tools of synthetic biology and applies them to create usable, tangible, economically viable products and processes.  It opens the door to developing more sustainable approaches for meeting human needs.  Integrating these capabilities into biorefineries could produce platform molecules and intermediates that can be processed and converted into a multitude of value-added products in areas like food, clean tech, energy, materials, GHG reduction, sustainable agriculture, clean water and waste management and health.

Fossil energy fueled industrialization and population growth over the past 250 years.  Because we are using it so much faster than it redevelops, emissions accumulate in the atmosphere where levels of CO2 are now more than 420 ppm.  To slow the rate of GHG emissions, and start reducing accumulated atmospheric levels, we should “capture and use” GHGs and turn them into useful products.  In the short term, subsidies can help, but in the longer term, processes need to scale and be economically viable without them.

To do that, SynBioBlox Innovations (SBB) has combined synthetic biology with artificial intelligence and machine learning and leading-edge scientists and engineers, led by experienced innovation managers.  By Integrating AI and ML with synthetic biology, SBB has achieved order of magnitude reductions in development time and cost relative to traditional approaches.

Over a year or two, SBB can now design and develop a modified or brand-new proprietary platform organism to meet pre-defined specifications – to produce value-added products, or precursors to them, from GHG emissions or other waste.  A sophisticated automated data pipeline accesses genetic and related data.  AI and ML supports data annotation and data analytics.  Advanced in silico tools and models are used to visualize and interpret information, identify, harness and improve genomic pathways, evaluate probable performance, and create “genetic designs” for organisms that are effective and efficient, and economically viable with potential to scale.  Then SBB can build them.

By “industrializing Mother Nature” SBB bio-platforms can speed up the carbon cycle and use a much smaller physical footprint – ultimately fueling the world with GHG emissions, re-inventing nutrition, minimizing reliance on forests, and reducing plastic waste.

Join with us as we work to address global challenges and create a more sustainable world.

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