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Metabolic Engineering and Synthetic Biology at BFN ABS 2014

Due to the unsustainable nature of fossil fuels and their negative environmental impacts, advanced biofuels have become an increasingly attractive alternative. With the assistance of BioFuelNet’s HQP travel award, I participated in the 2014 Advanced Biofuels Symposium (ABS) in Ottawa, Ontario. Similarly to the 2013 annual meeting, the ABS allowed for discussion between BioFuelNet (BFN) researchers in order to clearly define the problems in the field and propose the best strategies to solve them. Furthermore, the meeting provided many more opportunities for highly qualified personnel (HQP) to present their work and assist a workshop focused on entrepreneurship and career development issues, which are essentials to most HQP.

ABS 2014


Don speaking at the ABS 2014



During Phase I, BFN was divided into four main themes: Feedstock, conversion, utilization and SEES. My work falls within the conversion theme. In my group, we are focused on using metabolic engineering techniques to improve microorganisms’ ability to convert sugars into renewable fuels and co-products. To this end, I am developing synthetic biology tools which can be applied in metabolic engineering to bring classical process control systems to the genetic level, improving our ability to control fermentation.


Although metabolic engineering has proven successful for improving diverse microorganisms’ abilities to produce valuable products, engineered organisms generally grow more slowly than their wild counterparts. This being said, the more engineered organisms in the fermenter, the faster the product will be created. Using synthetic biology, we are developing a dynamic strategy to control gene expression, which could allow a single engineered organisms to choose between quick growth and quick production, in order to reap the benefits of both. This technology has the potential to improve the yield, titer and productivity of these processes, making them more economically feasible.

The ABS allowed me to put my work into perspective with the rest of the field, and think about how my work can address challenges in the feedstock and utilization themes of the network. By working together with a holistic view of the biofuels process, I am able to better target my work to solving specific issues which are prevalent in the field. This conference also gave me the opportunity to reconnect with close collaborators, in person, and share new technologies and ideas. I am looking forward to these opportunities at future BFN meetings, like the ABS 2015.

Pictures from the

To register for the ABS 2015, click here.

To register for the HQP Workshop 2015, click here.

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