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March 8, 2019

DOE Announces LANL Use Of Microbial Biosensors For Conversion Pathway Design

Lynn L Bergeson

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 28, 2019, DOE announced that scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) have been working on molecular tools that reside naturally within microbial cells.  Microbes typically use these tools to carry out their metabolism and other life-sustaining processes; LANL researchers, however, have been using the tools to produce fuel precursors and bioproduct building blocks.  With the addition of a biosensor in the microbes, light allows the scientists to learn how efficiently the product is being made and thus enabling more efficient quality control to increase overall yield.  This technology is called LANL’s Smart Microbial Cell Technology and consists of a high throughput screening for enzyme discovery, design, and evolution.  It allows LANL to engineer custom biosensors that detect intracellular concentrations of a specific precursor.  This biosensor technology can, thus, be adapted to a single enzyme, pathway, or even global optimization of an industrial strain.  The work is being led by Taraka Dale, Remash Jha, and, Niju Narayanan at LANL, under the Agile BioFoundry multinational laboratory effort to expedite biomanufacturing processes.