Canada’s bio-economy is estimated at $80 billion/year, which constitutes >6.4% of our GDP, and supports more than 1 million jobs. Many products in this sector are based on protein technologies; e.g., enzymes and biosynthetic pathways for biofuel and bioproduct manufacturing, higher-yield and pest-resistant crops, antibodies for treatment of illness, and portable disease diagnostic devices. Most of these biotechnologies make use of proteins that have been engineered with new properties tailored to a specific application. Intensified efforts to engineer novel proteins with enhanced functionalities are motivated by increasing demands on the Canadian bio-economy resulting from climate change and an ever-increasing world population.
Our current reality calls for the training of a new generation of highly qualified personnel with the required multidisciplinary skill sets, experience, and ability to translate knowledge into practice. Highly skilled next-generation protein engineers are needed to enable novel protein-based technologies that will lead to important advances in areas such as manufacturing (e.g., bioproducts), and natural resources and energy (e.g., biofuel production from waste biomass), and help catapult Canada’s bioeconomy to the global forefront.