New Computer Model Harnesses Ancient Biology for Climate Change Solution 

June 11, 2017 |

In Illinois, a computer-based model developed by researchers at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) at the University of Queensland in Australia is now able to predict the optimal conditions for acetogenic carbon fixation, specifically for the species Clostridium autoethanogenum (C. auto), used by gas fermentation company LanzaTech. The results were released in the article

“Maintenance of ATP homeostasis triggers metabolic shifts in gas-fermenting acetogens” published as the cover article in Cell Systems, here.

Acetogens are one of the oldest living organisms, with the acetogenic CO2 fixing pathway considered to be one of the first biochemical pathways on Earth. Today, these organisms still play a major role in the global carbon cycle, accounting for around 20% of the fixed carbon on the planet. With a more detailed understanding of the metabolism of acetogens, more carbon could be fixed from existing waste streams into everyday products that would otherwise come from fossil resources.

LanzaTech’s acetogen was originally discovered in the droppings of a rabbit species, from there the acetgoen was isolated and brought to the lab where it was further developed. Today the LanzaTech acetogens ferment waste industrial gases from process industries, such as the steel or refining sector to produce ethanol and other chemicals. In this way, waste gases can be captured, and biologically converted into chemicals for plastic production! The company has proven the scalability and commercial viability of the technology. In addition, they have perfected a genetic tool kit to modify the organism to allow it to make many different products from these waste gas streams. However, with the aid of this new computer model, the company is able to accurately and predictively design microbes. This greatly reduces the time from concept to production, ensuring that gas fermenting organisms will become a viable solution for the production of a broad spectrum of valuable fuels and chemicals from waste and sustainable feedstocks.


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Category: Research

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