Fuels, Chemicals, and Biologics

The industrial production of molecules using engineered microbes has emerged as an effective strategy to convert abundant feedstocks into useful fuels, chemicals, and biologics while leaving a low environmental footprint. The design of cellular production technologies for applications in pharmaceutical, industrial, and agricultural arenas can be quickly achieved by using the vast biological databases of information (metagenomic, functional genomic, and structural genomic) with computational search and modeling algorithms to design synthetic genetic networks that leverage the metabolic potential of all known organisms. The low cost of DNA synthesis allows these synthetic networks to be generated rapidly for introduction and optimization within many cellular systems.

At Rice, groups are working to:

  • engineer enzymes with new activities beyond the set of known enzymes for medical applications (novel drug production and blood substitutes) (Segatori, Silberg),
  • design new metabolic pathways and networks that produce industrial chemicals, organic acids, solvents and polymers (G. Bennett, Gonzalez, San),
  • use of low value agricultural waste material or stranded methane as primary feedstocks for bioconversions (G. Bennett, Gonzalez), and
  • generate effective routes to high value substances through improved understanding of biological systems and methods for pathway design and manipulation (G. Bennett, M. BennettGonzalez, San, Tabor).