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Synthetic biology breakthrough could ignite cheaper biofuel production.

Posted on Oct 23, 2017 5:00:00 PM

simpath.jpg"We value our industrial partners like SimPath who bridge scientific discovery with technology innovation to accelerate the path to commercialization."

The process behind biofuel production could become cheaper and more efficient if the efforts of a US laboratory and start-up are realised, after the development of a pioneering cloning system. SimPath has now licensed the system by the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) that generates and assembles the biological building blocks necessary to synthetically bioengineer new fuels.

Also suitable for the pharmaceutical industry in the development of medicines, the Knoxville -based company SimPath will develop the cloning system further to improve ORNL's method into a multi-gene DNA assembly kit. It will also include a software package for customers using synthetic biology techniques.  

The benefit of using synthetic biology is down to the fact that it leverages genome sequences of organisms, such as bacteria and yeast, and reassembles its genetic make-up to produce products that are difficult to obtain naturally. ORNL researchers originally developed the cloning system to aid studies of drought-resistant plants that rely on a water-saving form of photosynthesis, a system that has already brought about a 50% increase in production.

Jerry Tuskan, co-inventor and chief executive officer of the Center for Bioenergy Innovation, led by ORNL, said the system has been designed to shuttle between different biological systems: “The easily transferable platform can be used to assemble the gene constructs from a large collection of DNA fragments.”

Moe KhaleelMoe Khaleel, associate lab director for Energy and Environmental Sciences at ORNL, said its team of researchers are helping to deliver breakthroughs in synthetic biology, and he highlighted the importance of the latest partnership. “We value our industrial partners like SimPath who bridge scientific discovery with technology innovation to accelerate the path to commercialization."

SimPath plans to provide an accessible product that helps synthetic biology researchers reduce operating costs, increase efficiency and more quickly commercialise products.

ORNL and SimPath will continue to partner on the cloning tool, using feedback from SimPath’s customers to enhance the system and fine-tune characteristics such as shelf-life, which determines the viability of live products.

Robert Moseley, president and co-founder of SimPath, said its goal was to accelerate its customers' design-build-test cycles. “By providing them with flexible DNA assembly tools, we can further enable the plant synthetic biology community to introduce new products to the market faster,” saidMosely.

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Topics: BBWNChemicals, ProcessRefining&Plants

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Dave Songer