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$2.2 Million University Grant for Algae Research

November 3, 2011

Arecent $2.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy is allowing Washington University, in St. Louis, MO, to take part in a collaborative study on fuel-generating bacteria, according to Dili Chen in the Student Life newspaper.

The goal of the project is to find ways to modify certain photosynthetic bacteria to generate clean energy more efficiently, involving researchers Dr. Himadri B. Pakrasi, George William and Irene Koechig Freiberg.

The three-year study, which began last month, is a collaborative effort with Purdue University and Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Pakrasi said that working with the other institutions will enable the project to achieve greater success. “No individual research group has all the expertise needed to make success.”

This particular research links together two modern approaches: systems and synthetic biology. The systems approach involves studying the cyanobacterium to understand its metabolism and the way it interacts with other things. The synthetic approach uses this information to combine the bacterium with new parts, such as genes or proteins, to make important molecules like polyethylene, important in the rubber industry.

Researchers involved expect the first paper of the project to be published early in the summer of 2012.

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