Accelerated Bacterial Evolution

From MIT Technology Review, A genome-wide approach to genetic engineering greatly speeds the manufacture of bacteria for making drugs and biofuels. H/T Alfin

Rather than changing the genome letter by letter, as most genetic engineering is done, George Church and his colleagues have developed a new technology that can make 50 changes to a bacterial genome nearly simultaneously–an advance that could be used to greatly speed the creation of bacteria that are better at producing drugs, nutrients, or biofuels.

LS9 soon plans to use the technology–called multiplex-automated genomic engineering, or MAGE–to accelerate development of bacterial cells that can produce low-cost renewable fuels and chemicals.

Church and his collaborators attack the genome on a broad scale. They design numerous genetic changes targeting genes throughout the genome, and then implement them all at once, looking for the resulting bacterial strain that can best produce the desired product. “It allows you to make modifications to the genome much more rapidly than the traditional one-step processes we have,” says Kristala Jones-Prather, a metabolic engineer at MIT who was not directly involved in the research.

Under the MAGE technology, scientists first generate 50 short strands of DNA, each containing a sequence similar to a gene or gene regulatory sequence in the target bacterial genome, but that has been updated in some way–incorporating a change that might make an enzyme more efficient, or boost production of a particular protein.

As a test run of the device, Church and his team created bacteria that could more efficiently produce lycopene, an antioxidant abundant in tomatoes. They designed DNA strands targeting genes known to be involved in lycopene production, and then monitored multiple tubes of engineered bacteria for production of the bright-red compound. In just three days, they had generated a strain that could produce five times more lycopene, according to findings presented at a conference at Harvard this month. The best lycopene producer had 24 genetic changes–four that completed blocked production of the gene’s protein, and 20 that resulted in small or large changes in the expression of that gene.

LS9 The company behind Accelerated Bacterial Evolution – Bulk Genome Editing
LS9 Technology is described here

LS9 has developed a new means of efficiently converting fatty acid intermediates into petroleum replacement products via fermentation of renewable sugars. LS9 has also discovered and engineered a new class of enzymes and their associated genes to efficiently convert fatty acids into hydrocarbons. LS9 believes this pathway is the most cost, resource, and energy-efficient way to produce hydrocarbon biofuels and petroleum-replacement products.