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WUSTL Wins DOE Funds to Lead Biofuel Research Project

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Washington University in St. Louis will use a $2.2 million grant from the Department of Energy to lead a systems biology-based study of the utility of cyanobacterial strains for producing biofuel.

WUSTL will work with partners at Purdue University and Pennsylvania State University in a multi-disciplinary study of cyanobacteria, commonly referred to as blue-green algae, that will involve genomics, phenomics, transcriptomics, and metabolomics, the university said this week. The scientists seek to understand the metabolic processes in these bacteria and then use that knowledge to engineer a bacterium that can produce fuel molecules.

The researchers, led by principal investigator and WUSTL biology Professor Himadri Pakrasi, will use the cyanobacterium Synechocystis 6803 instead of brewer's yeast in its engineering efforts.

Pakrasi said that this organism was the first photosynthetic organism to have its genome sequenced and its gene expression has been studied under 151 different environmental conditions.

"The systems biology work we are doing with other strains will allow us to identify useful metabolic modules that Synechocystis does not have, and add them to Synechocystis as needed to create a family of bugs tailored to produce a range of fuels or fuel precursors," Pakrasi said.

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