High-Yield Secretion System for Biosurfactant Production


Interest and use of surfactants has grown over the past 10 years, mainly due to the emergence of applications in biofuels, oil recovery and bioremediation. This has created a push towards green, biodegradable surfactants. However, large-scale biosurfactant production is limited due do a lack of understanding of both the identity and mechanism of biosynthesis. 


Lehigh University has developed a process to overcome these limitations by using a high-yield, E.coli-based system for recombinant synthesis of the protein-based surfactant hydrophohin II (HYD). This process offers advantages of high-resolution nuclear magnetic resonance for structure-based engineering of the physical properties, plasmid-based expression to engineer changes in structure through site-directed mutagenesis or directed evolution, screening of HYD variants directly from cell culture, and it can overcome toxicity though inclusion of body formation.


This method enables engineering of biosurfactants for specific applications through screening and selection from cell culture as well as simplifies downstream recovery and purification steps after synthesis. This invention provides for scalable, constitutive expression, and can be tailored to biomedical, food, cosmetics, materials, energy or other key applications.


Lehigh Tech ID# 091112-01



The global market for biosurfactants is expected to grow at an annual rate of 3.5% where it will reach $2.2 billion in 2018, up from $1.7 billion in 2011. The growing demand for environmentally friendly solutions, not only from consumers but from regulators as well, has increased awareness for bio-based products and expanded the applications for biosurfactants to open up new market niches. There are also a number of well-known, fairly large, companies playing in this arena, including BASF-Cognis, looking to gain an edge in offering cost completive products.[1] As such, there is a great deal of opportunity and market pull for this approach. 


[1] “Biosurfactants Industry is Expected to Reach USD 2,210.5 Million Globally in 2018.” July 24, 2012. Transparency Research report. Yahoo Finance web site. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/biosurfactants-industry-expected-reach-usd-123000760.html (accessed July 24, 2012).



Lehigh University is interested in identifying corporate partners.

App Type Country Serial No. Patent No. File Date Issued Date Expire Date
Provisional [PR] United States 61/822,706 5/13/2013   5/13/2014
Provisional [PR] United States 61/992,579 5/13/2014    
For Information, Contact:
Alan Snyder
VP, Research & Grad Programs
Lehigh University
Bryan Berger
Green Synthesis
Sustainable Biomanufacturing