This Small Business Innovation Research Phase II project is to advance the number of tools available for manipulation of algae, specifically diatoms, for commercial purposes. Relatively little effort has gone into molecular manipulation of algae. Most of the algal molecular biology effort has been concentrated on a handful of species. Advances in microalgal molecular biology have not kept up with the rest of molecular biology and application to commercially important species is lacking. Until the Phase I research, no molecular manipulation of diatoms was reported. During Phase I, we developed the techniques to transform diatoms for the first time. Simultaneously, another laboratory reported that they developed methods for transformation of another diatom. So we were one of the first two groups to transform diatoms. Now the challenge is to continue this research to perfect the methods of diatom manipulation and provide a commercial payoff for this research. Phase II research will focus on perfecting transformation techniques for diatoms. We will apply these optimized techniques to a number of different diatoms, expanding from our current test organism, Phaeodactylum tricornutum. The existing fcp promoters will be analyzed and quantified to determine the best promoters to utilize. The fcp promoters will also be analyzed for application in other diatoms and several other microalgal systems. We will be exploring ways to change the fatty acid profiles of these diatoms to further commercial utilization of the oil produced. A number of different strategies will also be evaluated that could lower the cost of production of diatoms. Since Martek is a company committed to single cell oil production, an obvious area for exploration and eventual exploitation is the oleagenous diatoms. We have identified a number of strains that produce commercially important oils. This research will explore ways to manipulate these algae to make the oils they produce economically feasible. In addition, a number of diatom strains are important aquacultural feeds. Another of Martek's focus areas is aquacultural feeds. We will also work to make some of these diatoms more attractive to use as a feed by lowering their production costs or adding additional characteristics that enhance their use as a feed.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP)
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George B. Vermont
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Martek Biosciences Corporation
United States
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