Novel Synthetic Biology Device Yields More Product and Less Waste

Achievement date: 
2013
Outcome/accomplishment: 

Researchers at the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (SynBERC), an NSF-funded center headquartered at the University of  California at Berkeley, have created a synthetic biological device that enables more efficient production of chemical compounds for a wide array of uses, including fuels, materials, bulk chemicals, and pharmaceuticals.

Impact/benefits: 

The new device improves the ability to achieve the desired amount or concentration of a substance in a solution. Testing by the research team, based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s, a SynBERC partner, showed a 20% increase in productivity and a nearly 50% decrease in waste as a result of the device. They observed that this appears to be the first demonstration of the implementation of a synthetic biology device to achieve such significant improvements.

Explanation/Background: 

An important goal of synthetic biology is to design and test devices with potential for high output and low waste that can be integrated in systems for the biological production of chemical products. Translating basic devices into real systems requires understanding the physiological requirements and restrictions for functional operation. The novel synthetic biology device created by the SynBERC team—a “genetic inverter”—resulted in a system that was able to vary performance significantly as a function of the timing of the chemical reactions taking place.