Whey to 1,2-propanediol: unraveling the metabolic limitations of enhanced biosynthesis

PI: Victor Ujor


Ujor is an assistant professor of food science at UW–Madison. His research interests include renewable fuels and chemicals, metabolic engineering/synthetic biology, bio-based waste-to-energy technologies, and bioprocess design.

To address the increasing glut of cheese whey and whey permeate and their economic and environmental impact on the Wisconsin dairy industry, this research team proposes bioconversion of cheese whey and whey permeate to a 1,2 propanediol (1,2PDO). The compound 1,2PDO is an increasingly important bulk chemical that serves as a precursor to industrially relevant polymers like plastics, adhesives, and coatings. It’s also an ingredient in antifreeze and in food processing. The 1,2PDO market is expected to reach $5.5 billion by 2026. This team of researchers has engineered a synthetic bacterium strain that produces 1,2PDO from this renewable resource. To increase the 1,2PDO concentration of this strain, researchers are working to identify and untangle metabolic roadblocks to efficient 1,2PDO biosynthesis. This project aligns to Dairy Task Force 2.0 recommendation #45 (‘Emphasis on value-added and specialty cheese in Wisconsin).