Cyanobacteria are the ancient progenitors of chloroplasts, the organelles responsible for photosynthetic carbon dioxide fixation in all land plants. Yet, cyanobacteria have been largely ignored by the biofuel and other industries because natural isolates have relatively low oil contents or yields that are not productive enough to be commercially viable.
Against this, we placed the immense power of genetic modification, based both on rational design and random mutagenesis followed by screening and selection, and guided by modern methods of systems biology (proteomics, genomics and metabolomics) and using the powerful approaches of synthetic biology. With these, we rapidly identify and modify genetic programs that control oil biosynthesis and a range of other traits.
Our technologically unique approach for manipulating metabolic pathways exploits these genetic and molecular tools, which are far superior in cyanobacteria than in any other photosynthetic organism. These state-of-the-art laboratory methods can massively speed evolution and yield radically altered organisms with a range of useful traits, with bacteria in particular displaying astonishing malleability with respect to almost all traits of interest.