This project, funded jointly by the Systems and Synthetic Biology Program in MCB and the Biotechnology, Biochemical and Biomass Engineering Program in the CBET, aims is to contribute a synthetic biology workflow for the efficient production of non-natural molecules in living cells. The specific aim is to produce novel biofuels that match the performance of existing fuels, while overcoming their limitations with respect to soot and nitrogen oxide formation. The outcomes will propel the development of Synthetic Biology in Europe and the US, as it contributes significantly to the development of a bio-refinery approach in the chemical industry. On the educational side, the investigator is involved in graduate education and research training. The project will also contribute to established REU programs at the University of California, Berkeley. Results will be disseminated broadly via publications in interdisciplinary international journals. Long-term, the major potential benefits of the proposed activity to society will be replacement of existing, petroleum-based fuels with fuels derived from renewable resources.
The multinational SynPath project follows a classic engineering approach of design, synthesis and analysis to explore metabolic pathways in microorganisms for production of drop-in biofuels. The focus will be on developing novel metabolic pathways for production of hydrocarbons and identify rate-limiting steps in biofuel production so that sugars can be efficiently converted to advanced biofuels. The proposed work will also create devices and modules that can be used to regulate and optimize biofuel production pathways. The success of this project relies on the integration of expertise in thermodynamics, chemical kinetics, microbial physiology, metabolic pathway engineering, and enzyme engineering.