Vanderbilt University scores $1.5M DOE grant to study cyanobacteria

July 21, 2021 |

In Tennessee, a new, $1.5 million Department of Energy grant brings together experts from three institutions to parse the metabolism of a blue-green algae that holds great promise for biofuel production.

The team, led by Vanderbilt University, will take a systems biology approach to identify how cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, can be engineered to produce large amounts of lipids in the form of free fatty acids. Significantly, free fatty acids secreted by cyanobacteria are more easily recovered than lipids typically produced by green algae.

The goal of this new project is to understand how lipid metabolism is regulated in cyanobacteria so host cells can be engineered for high-yield production of medium-chain free fatty acids, which are readily converted into fuels.

Researchers will use the strain Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002, a fast-growing cyanobacteria that is tolerant to heat and brackish water. The organism’s flexibility makes it especially attractive to DOE as a biomanufacturing host because its growth does not compete with production of crops or other food sources. The species can be grown using wastewater resources and without organic sources of carbon, such as sugar, on land that is unsuitable for agriculture.

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Category: Research

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