NYMU Bioenergy Team developed Enhanced CO2 Capturing Microalgae

A bioenergy research team led by Dr. Chuan-Hsiung Chang, an associate professor at the Center for Systems and Synthetic Biology in National Yang-Ming University (NYMU), has designed and engineered a synthetic microalgal genome for enhancing carbon dioxide capture. This research result has been published in the August issue of the world-class top journal"Energy & Environmental Science"and is subjected to a patent application.

Dr. Chang is leading a research team working on genome analysis, design and engineering and currently engaging in National Science Technology Program (NSTP) - Energy Project for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in Taiwan. The NYMU research team has developed a platform for both Computer Aided Whole Genome Analysis (GenomeCAA) and Computer Aided Whole Genome Design (GenomeCAD) based on the integration of Systems Biology and Synthetic Biology. Through this integrated platform, Dr. Chang's genome team was able to design a gene regulation system in microalgae cell for producing and secreting carbonic anhydrase (CA), which was proved to increase CO2 absorption and to enhance the efficiency of microalgal CO2 bio-mitigation. This excellent achievement has been invited to be presented in the International Conference on Next Generation Technologies for Bioenergy and Biomass Utilisation hold in Singapore in August this year (2012). Dr. Charles Harper of MIT Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship in United States has also expressed his interests in this report and has consulted about the detail of this research result.

Dr. Chang's team has been using the innovative platform of GenomeCAA and GenomeCAD to design and model the dynamic interaction networks in engineered microbial cells. Through this computational simulation of microbial biorobots, the target genes for engineering become easily predictable and designable, and the achievements in biotechnology and biomedicine could be greatly improved. Through this excellent achievement in National Energy Program, the NYMU team not only builds up the relationship in international cooperation in scientific research but also enhances Taiwan's international competitiveness in genome-based green energy biotechnology. Dr. Pei-Hong Chen, a team member as well as the first author of the publication in Energy & Environmental Science journal, stated that,"CO2 Solutions Inc. in Canada has commercialized the technology of CO2 capture by carbonic anhydrase and performed several pilot trials in coal-fired industry. With the technology of engineering cyanobacteria developed by Dr. Chang's team, the CA gene can be integrated into the genome of cyanobacteria. The engineered CA-producing cyanobacteria can replicate in nature so as to produce a large amount of CA enzymes to capture CO2 in the air. This will greatly lower the cost of CO2 removal in the future."

The genome design and engineering research team in NYMU led by Dr. Chang has patent applications supported by National Science Council (NSC) National Program Office for GenomeCAA and GenomeCAD. Based on the maturity of the technology platform of genome analysis, design and engineering, Dr. Chang is actively seeking collaborations with biotechnology and biomedicine industries. His team has already applied GenomeCAA and GenomeCAD to valuable product research and development. And through this integral technology platform, the time to market would be greatly shortened and the effectiveness could be substantially improved.

Reference:Enhancing CO2 bio-mitigation by genetic engineering of cyanobacteria. Energy and Environmental Science, 5: 8318-8327. (2012)