SBIR Phase I: Regulating Transgene Expression for Biosecure Microalgal Biofuel Production

Period of Performance: 01/01/2009 - 12/31/2009

$100K

Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Phycal LLC
51 Alpha Park
Highland Heights, OH 44143
Principal Investigator

Abstract

This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project develops a system for the biosecure production of algal oils in open raceways while utilizing genetically modified algae. Through production of transgenic algae containing specific gene regulatory sequences, this research develops algal strains that conditionally express an essential chloroplast-encoded gene only in the presence of the specific inducer compound. Thus, transgenic algal strains would survive only in the presence of the inducer compound (which will be added to the ponds in our production facility). On escape from the production facility, these algae will stop production of the essential target protein and be unable to reproduce in the environment. This biosecure production system will allow the use of genetically modified algae in open pond production systems without fear of impacting the surrounding systems. The broader impact of the proposed research will be to enable the use of low cost, open-pond culturing systems for the production of biofuels using microalgae genetically manipulated for maximum oil and biomass production. This will be accomplished in a biosecure manner through the development of molecular biological strategies that prevent the genetically manipulated algal strains from reproducing once they are removed from the production ponds. The use of molecular genetics to both increase the production of oil and ensure biosecure use of the transgenic algae (unable to replicate in the surrounding environment) could enable cost effective production of biofuels using algal systems. This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5).