April 30, 2010

DoE invests in E. coli research project

The sickness bacteria E. coli could soon be used to power vehicles as the US Department of Energy (DoE) is supporting a research project into this area in the form of $6 million (€4.9 million). Jason Kelly, the founder of bioengineering start-up firm Ginkgo BioWorks, said: ‘This is our biggest grant to date. It’s going to help us expand, and it’s part of our strategy of moving into alternative energy.’ Located in Boston, US, the company will now refine the process of a common bacterium through the conversion of CO2 and water into isooctane – an important ingredient found in petrol. Contrary to belief, most strains of E. coli are harmless and popular among researchers due to its quick-growing characteristics and ability to be modified easily. Ginkgo’s grant was part of a $22.1 million handout from the DoE to seven energy projects taking place in Massachusetts. Other projects include MIT (four separate grants) totalling $10.9 million, Harvard Medical School’s Wyss Institute received $4.2 million, while the University of Massachusetts at Amherst were awarded $1 million. Ginkgo employees, the number of which is expected to increase from eight to between 10 and 20 bioengineers within the next six months as a result of the grant, will team with researchers at the University of California and University of Washington. After receiving a life-sciences loan of $150,000 from the city of Boston, the company relocated to the Marine Industrial Park last year.




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