Our research uses synthetic biology to address challenges in sustainability. A primary question here is how we can develop biotechnology in such a way that it has a significant and positive impact? Target-wise our main focus is on the renewable supply of chemicals, incl. fuel, as reflected in current grants. Lately, however, we have developed an interest also for the sustainability of food. The current research themes are summarised below.
1) Synthetic metabolic pathways for industrial production of chemicals. We have an interest in creating solutions that consider all steps of the production chain, including separation and utility. The ideal metabolic pathway is not always available, and in that situation we seek to create synthetic routes for compounds without a known biological pathway, or chemicals with no known biogenic origin. A typical example of this work is the engineering of a synthetic pathway for biosynthesis of propane. In current projects we are also expanding these efforts beyond fuels and creating solutions that by-pass native host metabolic limitations.
2) Engineering cyanobacteria for chemicals production. Cyanobacteria can in theory be used as an easily amplified catalyst for the conversion of solar energy and carbon dioxide into chemicals. Currently, there is effectively no large-scale commercial production of chemicals using engineered cyanobacteria or algae. We would like to contribute towards the development and commercialisation of such technology, but work strictly in the early phase of proof-of-concept for strain development through genetic engineering. An example of this work is the construction of cyanobacteria strains that produce ethylene, incorporating molecular toolbox development work.
3) Understanding metabolism. In order to engineer metabolism it is first necessary to understand it. Our knowledge of cyanobacteria metabolism is in some cases quite limited. This work is mainly carried out on a systems level, including computational network analysis, genome-scale stoichiometric modelling and targeted or non-targeted proteomics. Most of this work is unpublished, an example is our joint work on text-mining with the Filip Ginter group at Univ. Turku.