Production of Astaxanthin Using Modified E. coli Cells

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Senior Design Reports (CBE)
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Biochemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Chemical Engineering
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There are several promising markets for naturally synthesized Astaxanthin, a carotenoid found in krill, shrimp, salmon, and other marine life that imparts to these creatures a pink coloring of the flesh and has demonstrated human health-promoting anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity. Compared to Astaxanthin produced through chemical synthesis, Astaxanthin synthesized through natural fermentative processes (in yeast and algae) is esterified, imparting greater antioxidant activity as well as bioavailability and making it the preferred ingredient for nutraceutical formulations. Additionally, as consumer preferences trend toward natural production processes free from the use of petrochemical solvents which may pose hazards to health hazards, fermentative production coupled with an extraction process featuring more environment- and health-friendly solvents is desired. Recently, a strain of E.coli has been genetically optimized to produce Astaxanthin, offering a cheaper synthesis route compared with algal cultivation. Herein, the authors propose a process for the production of natural Astaxanthin through fermentation in genetically modified E.coli and recovery of the compound from biomass via supercritical CO2 extraction. The fermentation seed train is composed of three pre-seed, two seed, and three production fed-batch fermenters. Biomass from the production stage is collected in a harvest/surge tank for continuous downstream processing. The biomass is concentrated in broth, the cells are lysed, and the slurry of lysed cells are dried. The lysis product is loaded with fructose and diatomaceous earth in order to produce biomass pellets that are appropriate for the extraction phase. Supercritical CO2 with ethanol co-solvent is used to extract Astaxanthin from these pellets. Astaxanthin is heat-sensitive and has low accumulation in cells. Despite the expensive equipment necessary to preserve the structure and activity of the product and the low yearly production rate, the high selling price of Astaxanthin makes this process economically profitable, with an investor’s rate of return of 125%, net present value of $468 million, and return on investment of 171%.

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