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Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Tech Transfer

An End-To-End Microfluidic Platform for Engineering Life Supporting Microbes in Space Exploration Missions, Phase I

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

HJ Science & Technology proposes a programmable, low-cost, and compact microfluidic platform capable of running automated end-to-end processes and optimization of cellular engineering and synthetic biology applications. In collaboration with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Joint Genome Institute, we will establish the feasibility of the proposed microfluidic automation technology by engineering and screening cyanobacterial cells for enhanced production of free fatty acids (FFA), a metabolic crossroad for the synthesis of a suite of useful organic molecules including lipids, alkanes, and potential biofuels starting from carbon dioxide, a metabolic waste product. The ability to perform such automated synthetic biology experiments during NASA missions could enable the production of a broad range of materials on site, and optimization of bioregenerative systems in response to environmental changes. We will demonstrate the microfluidic automation capability for each of the key steps in cellular engineering: 1) construction of a plasmid containing genes for enhanced FFA production in cyanobacteria, 2) subsequent transformation into cyanobacterial cells/chromosomal integration, and 3) screening of expression products. As such, we can assess the FFA levels as a function of the gene variant in almost real time, thereby greatly enhancing our ability to control and optimize FFA production. More »

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