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Showing posts from May, 2010

Recap of SD-CAP Algal Biofuels Symposium 2010: Cyanobacteria – the other Algae by Susan Golden

There is one more talk I want to summarize because I thought it was really good: Susan Golden's talk about cyanobacteria was very educational because she reminds us all that when talking about algae not every algae is eukaryotic.

According to her, cyanobacteria belong to the prokaryotic kingdom. There is a large variety of them out there with very unique metabolic processes and physiologies that can be exploited. Some fix nitrogen, others produce hydrogen, or other secondary products. Many are individualistic, while some form filaments that can be beneficial for harvesting. From a technological perspective, some cyanobacteria are very easily transformable – that foreign pieces of DNA can easily be absorbed into these organisms. From a research perspective, there are 10 genetic model systems providing a wealth of tools and information for further research questions.

There are, however, challenges when it comes to working with cyanobacteria to extract oils for biofuels production. T…

R&D News: Are we a step closer to recreate life?

In the latest Science Issue, the Venter Lab (Gibson et al. 2010) report that they have successfully created an "artificial genome" Mycoplasma mycoides which they transplanted into Mycoplasma capricolum cell to create a new Mycoplasma mycoides cell. In other words, they put the DNA of "A" into an organism of type "B". Just by doing so, they "converted" B into A. This begs the question....

So what?

The dream of creating artificial life - that is to say recreate life from scratch with inanimate starting components - has been the dream of some researchers that want to get at the question of:"What is life?" Of these researchers, Craig Venter probably has been the most recognized figure. Craig Venter claims that understanding how one can create life from scratch will also give us the ability to create purpose-driven life-forms. With the current oil spill an example comes to mind where one could create much better bacteria from scratch that wo…

Recap of SD-CAP Algal Biofuels Symposium 2010: Where we are - where we are going

This is still from the SD-CAP Symposium. Another talk I wanted to summarize was Professor Stephen Mayfield's talk titled "Where we are - where we are going"

The presentation slides can be found at the following location for anyone interested:

Professor Mayfield’s talk was more of an overview talk meant to introduce the audience to the topic of algal biofuels. It could be divided into 2 parts: the problem, and the solution.

The Problem

Professor Mayfield started by making the point that between 1900 and today energy has been a rapidly growing market reaching $5.8 trillion today from just $ 0.4 billion. The future energy market is predicted to double in value within just ten years. There is an interesting correlation between energy use and wealth of a nation. The United States according this chart is one of the wealthiest nations in the world while also using proportionally more resources. The future growth in the …

Recap of SD-CAP Algal Biofuels Symposium 2010: Research Dynamics.

Last week, I had the fortune of attending the Algal Biofuels Symposium held by the San Diego Algae Biotechnology Center which was founded by Professor Mayfield and his colleagues. The next few posts will focus on what happened at this symposium.

The introductions were held by Professor Steve Kay, who is the Dean of Biology at the University of California, San Diego. Professor Kay noted that algal research has been steadily rising since the early 1990s again. Since the 2000s the growth curve of algal research resembles that of an early exponential growth as determined by number of publications with the keyword "algae". Key to this resurgence in algal research has been the advance of technologies in molecular biology, sequencing, and bioinformatics. Of note is that there has been an explosion in algal biofuels research since late 2008. The exponential growth exponential growth in algal research coincides with the onset of algal biofuels research significantly helped by signifi…