Challenges and Opportunities in Biological Funneling of Heterogeneous and Toxic Substrates Beyond Lignin

Andrew J. Borchert, William R. Henson, Gregg T. Beckham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus Citations


Significant developments in the understanding and manipulation of microbial metabolism have enabled the use of engineered biological systems toward a more sustainable energy and materials economy. While developments in metabolic engineering have primarily focused on the conversion of carbohydrates, substantial opportunities exist for using these same principles to extract value from more heterogeneous and toxic waste streams, such as those derived from lignin, biomass pyrolysis, or industrial waste. Funneling heterogeneous substrates from these streams toward valuable products, termed biological funneling, presents new challenges in balancing multiple catabolic pathways competing for shared cellular resources and engineering against perturbation from toxic substrates. Solutions to many of these challenges have been explored within the field of lignin valorization. This perspective aims to extend beyond lignin to highlight the challenges and discuss opportunities for use of biological systems to upgrade previously inaccessible waste streams.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalCurrent Opinion in Biotechnology
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2A00-80221


  • biological funneling
  • engineered biological systems
  • heterogeneous substrates
  • lignin valorization
  • metabolic engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Challenges and Opportunities in Biological Funneling of Heterogeneous and Toxic Substrates Beyond Lignin'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this