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Researchers genetically engineer micro-organisms into tiny factories
Date:9/18/2007

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Microorganisms may soon be efficiently and inexpensively producing novel pharmaceutical compounds, such as flavonoids, that fight aging, cancer or obesity, as well as high-value chemicals, as the result of research being conducted by University at Buffalo researchers.

In work that could transform radically the ways in which many of these compounds are produced commercially, the UB researchers are genetically engineering microorganisms, such as E. coli, into tiny, cellular factories. Several patents related to this work have been filed by UB. The team also is in discussions with companies in the U.S. and abroad.

First Wave Technologies, Inc., a technology development company based in UBs New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, which is collaborating with the UB group, recently received a highly competitive Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Science Foundation to focus on the biosynthesis of a popular group of flavonoids called isoflavonoids.

Ultimately, we want to be able to take a designed E. coli off of the shelf and drop into it the enzymes that constitute a particular biosynthetic pathway in order to make exactly the product we want, said Mattheos A. G. Koffas, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and leader of the UB team.

The UB approach to synthetic chemistry addresses some of the major challenges in conventional industrial production of specialty chemicals.

Through the use of specially adapted bacteria, specialized enzymes and natural feedstocks, microbial biosynthesis reduces or eliminates the need for petrochemical sources, elevated temperatures, toxic heavy metal catalysts, extremes of acidity and dangerous solvents, Koffas said.

In addition, the natural enzymes the UB researchers are using can facilitate chemical reactions that are difficult to accomplish
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Contact: Ellen Goldbaum
goldbaum@buffalo.edu
716-645-5000 x1415
University at Buffalo
Source:Eurekalert

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