Shown above is the interactive metabolic map of bio-based chemicals, which is distributed by KAIST scientists. Photo courtesy of KAIST

Interactive map distributed compiling chemicals by biological, chemical & combined reactions

A team of Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) reported an interactive metabolic map of bio-based chemicals in a peer-reviewed journal on Aug. 10.

The ivory tower announced on Aug. 29 that the paper was published online in Trends in Biotechnology. The team comprises Dr. Jang Woo-dae, and Ph.D. student Kim Gi-bae on top of Prof. Lee Sang-yup.

As a response to rapid climate change and environmental pollution, research on the production of petrochemical products using microorganisms is receiving attention as a sustainable alternative to existing methods of production.

In order to synthesize various chemical substances, materials, and fuels using microorganisms, it is necessary to first construct the biosynthetic pathway toward desired product by exploration and discovery and introduce them into microorganisms.

In addition, to efficiently synthesize various chemical substances, it is sometimes necessary to employ chemical methods along with bioengineering methods using microorganisms at the same time.

For the production of non-native chemicals, novel pathways are designed by recruiting enzymes from heterologous sources or employing enzymes designed through rational engineering, directed evolution, or ab initio design.

Its research team had completed a map of chemicals that compiled all available pathways of biological and/or chemical reactions that led to the production of various bio-based chemicals back in 2019 and published the map in Nature Catalysis, according to KAIST.

The map was distributed in the form of a poster to industries and academia so that the synthesis paths of bio-based chemicals could be checked at a glance.

The published bio-based chemicals map is also available at

“We conducted this study to address the demand for updating the previously distributed chemicals map and enhancing its versatility.” The two co-first authors of Jang and Bae said.

“The map is expected to be utilized in a variety of research and in efforts to set strategies and prospects for chemical production incorporating bio and chemical methods that are detailed in the map.”

Prof. Lee commented that the map would be very useful.

“The interactive bio-based chemicals map is expected to help design and optimization of the metabolic pathways for the biosynthesis of target chemicals together with the strategies of chemical conversions, serving as a blueprint for developing further ideas on the production of desired chemicals through biological and/or chemical reactions,” he said.