USA: Lessons Learned from Genetically Modified Mosquitos Synthetic Biology in Isobutanol Production

Editor: Alexander Stark

Intrexon Energy told the US news platform DownstreamToday that the company is seeking for new was to apply synthetic biology for refining purposes.

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(Source: Intrexon)

San Francisco/USA – Oxitec, a subsidiary of Intrexon, has been working in Aedes aegypti control for more than a decade. It is a pioneer in the use of a biological method to suppress wild populations of this dangerous mosquito species through the release of Friendly Aedes males, which don’t bite and don’t transmit disease. When released, these males search for wild females to mate, and their offspring inherit a self-limiting gene that makes them die before reaching functional adulthood. Friendly “Aedes” offspring also inherit a fluorescent marker that makes them easy to identify in the laboratory.

"Synthetic biology, or genetic engineering, are at the heart of all we do, supporting our efforts to tackle some of the world's most pressing issues – from diseases to food production and meeting our ever-growing energy needs," Bob Walsh, senior vice president of Intrexon Energy, told DownstreamToday.

Intrexon is using a similar “engineering of biology” process for its energy technology platform, continued Walsh. "Only instead of insects, we are modifying the genetics of a methane-consuming bacteria known as a methanotroph," he explained. "We are able to engineer this unique microbe to produce chemicals and fuel from natural gas. The first product for the platform is isobutanol."

Since March 2016, Intrexon has been operating a pilot-scale plant in California that uses methanotrophs genetically programmed to convert methane into isobutanol.

"Reaching operational status with our pilot plant is one of several important milestones we expect to reach this year as we continue to move closer to commercialization of our ground-breaking bioconversion platform for the production of isobutanol," said Robert F. Walsh earlier this year. "Data from the pilot plant will be utilized to further refine our commercial scale facility design."

According to Walsh, the gas-to-liquids process could create opportunities that go well beyond isobutanol production.

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