Designing Stable, Synthetic, Light-Driven Algae-Bacteria Consortia for Bioproduction
Presented by Taylor L. Weiss, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Michigan State University
Developing algae bioproduction platforms typically requires the time-consuming process of optimizing genetic pathways and culture conditions in order to redirect cellular resources away from growth and towards production of a specific metabolite. There are, however, significant economic risks associated with monocultured, single-compound production (e.g., biofuels are exposed to volatile petroleum markets) and increasing photobiological product diversity by repeatedly identifying, crafting, and testing new, single-molecule producing strains is a non-trivial endeavor. One recent proposal to address these concerns is the bioengineering of modular, synthetic microbial consortia. In contrast to natural consortia, synthetic consortia offer design flexibility, with the division of labor between microbial species being exploited to promote a modular approach to community construction.
The seminar will focus broadly on understanding the biological barriers associated with current, scaled monocultured algal bioproduction and designing integrated consortial communities and technologies to overcome these barriers. Specific topics will include: a deep biochemical examination of the hydrocarbon-secreting colonial microalga Botryococcus braunii; a B. braunii colony-inspired example of a productive, synthetic microbial consortia utilizing a sucrose-excreting, photoautotrophic cyanobacteria that, when encapsulated in an alginate hydrogel, feeds a sucrose-metabolizing, bioplastic-synthesizing heterotrophic bacteria; and future research objectives, transforming the microbes which already contaminate scaled cultures into productive and stabilizing members of an algal-microbial consortia. Special topics include: unique lipid and rare carbohydrate biosynthesis; cell walls as examples of—and barriers to—extracellular carbon export; and the development of miscrospectroscopic and microfluidic technologies for label-free, in situ biochemical investigations of microalgae.
About the speaker
Taylor L. Weiss is currently a postdoctoral research associate at the DOE/MSU Plant Research Laboratory at Michigan State University in the laboratory of Daniel Ducat. His research objectives focus on the development of cooperative, synthetic algal-microbial consortia for bioproduction. His most recent work utilizes a modified, sucrose-secreting cyanobacteria, suspended in an alginate hydrogel, to sustain a PHB-accumulating bacteria for efficient, biodegradable plastic production.
Taylor earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry at the University of Rochester, New York, where research into bioremedial enzymology helped him earn a NIH Biophysics Training Fellowship. While completing his doctorate in biochemistry at Texas A&M University, he was a member of the National Alliance for the Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts (NAABB) Biology Team and authored/co-authored eight publications regarding the hydrocarbon-secreting microalga Botryococcus braunii. He published three more times while completing his first postdoctoral position with Ursula W. Goodenough at Washington University in St. Louis, primarily focusing on the Nannochloropsis cell wall. A long-time member of the Algae Biomass Organization (ABO), Taylor now seeks to: advance algal bioproduction using scaled, synthetic algal consortia; continue his pursuit of collaborative, transdisciplinary advances in miscrospectroscopic and microfluidic technologies; and explore new ways that synthetic biology and cyanobacteria could combat diabetes.