Novel industrial bioprocesses for production of key valuable steroid precursors from phytosterol

acronym: MySterI

RESULTS of MySterl: Presentation can be found here.

Project coordinator
- Dr. Carlos Barreiro - Asociación de investigación-INBIOTEC-Instituto de Biotecnología de León - Spain

Project leaders
- Dr. Marina Donova - Pharmins Ltd., Pushchino - Russian Federation
- Dr. Margaret Caronline Machin Smith - University of York - UK
- Research manager Havard Sletta - Stiftelsen SINTEF, Trondheim - Norway
- Prof. Dr. Ing. Gerhard Schembecker - Technische Universität Dortmund Fakultät Bio- und Chemieingenieurwesen Lehrstuhl für Anlagen- und Prozesstechnik, Dortmund - Germany
- Dr. José Luis Barredo - Gadea Biopharma S.L., Léon - Spain

Project MySterI (Mycobacterial Steroids for Industry) aims to produce high value steroid precursors
using a novel bioconversion strategy resulting in lower production costs and less cost to the
environment. The aim is to convert phytosterols in cheap waste plant material to desired steroid
precursors with engineered strains of fast-growing, saprophytic mycobacteria in single fermentation
steps. The bioconversion of phytosterols has not been widely adopted in the biotechnology industry
because of problems with microbial strains, process efficiency and therefore poor yield. At the heart of
project MySterI is the bioconversion of phytosterols to 3β-hydroxyandrost-5-ene-17-one (DHEA) or
to androst-4-ene-3,17-dione (AD) (intermediary precursor) and then to 11α-hydroxyandrost-4-ene-
3,17-dione (11-α-OH-AD) and testosterone. To achieve this goal, project MySterI has the following

  • Genome sequencing and annotation of Mycobacterium sp. NRRL B-3805 (AD-producer) to identify key bioconversion genes and to enable ‘omics tools.
  • Understanding of phytosterol bioconversion by means of ‘omics technologies
  • Development of the genetic engineering tools for Mycobacterium sp. NRRL B-3805
  • Construction of mycobacterial strains capable of producing 11-α-OH-AD, DHEA and testosterone.
  • Designing more efficient and eco-friendly methods of production and downstream processing for the three selected compounds.

Expected results
The outputs from MySterI will be: i) novel strains capable of producing three valuable C19-steroid
precursors from phytosterol ii) knowledge of the biochemistry of steroid biotransformations iii)
optimized fermentation and eco-friendly downstream processes for the single-step production of
steroids precursors using Mycobacterium sp. NRRL B-3805.

Efficient, cheap and environmentally clean production of intermediate steroids will confer a highly
competitive status to Gadea Pharmaceutical Group and Pharmins Ltd. (industrial partners) in the
regulatory market of the steroids. Additional indirect outcomes will be: i) the improvement of the
European biotechnological business network, and ii) the establishment of research and industrial
collaborations with Russia (novel incorporation to the ERA-IB call).