Biotech Blog Roundup for the week ending August 21, 2009

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This week it’s the week of biofuels and synthetic biology.

The blog, Algae-Future Fuel writes about researchers from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, who,

have successfully extracted biodiesel from algae — a significant stage in an unique project that will eventually use native algae from a campus pond to produce fuel for diesel engines to test power, torque and emissions.” “Algae-based biodiesel has significant advantages, according to Michael Mueller, head of Rose-Hulman’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He has conducted extensive research on biodiesel during the past two summers.” Fifty gallons of biodiesel can be produced per acre of soybeans once per year. Conversely, algae can be grown year round, is not a competing food source and 50 gallons of biodiesel can be obtained from 50,000 gallons of algae-rich water. “In terms of a two-foot deep pond, this would require an area half that required by soybeans and can be harvested almost daily,” Mueller cited.”

Onto a new partnership. Kirk Johnson of the New York Times writes about, “science, environmental optimism and Native American capitalist ambition…” According to the Johnson, a Colorado State University is teaming up with one of the wealthiest American Indian communities, The Southern Utes. Johnson writes,

“…from the tribe’s perspective, the business model here is about more than business. “It’s a marriage of an older way of thinking into a modern time,” said the tribe’s chairman, Matthew J. Box, referring to the interplay of environmental consciousness and investment opportunity around algae.”

According to Johnson,

“The Colorado State professor, Bryan Willson, who teaches mechanical engineering and is a co-founder of the three-year-old company Solix Biofuels, said working with the Southern Utes on their land afforded his company advantages that would have been impossible in mainstream corporate America. The tribe contributed almost one-third of the $20 million in capital raised by Solix, free use of land and more than $1 million in equipment.”

Now onto synthetic biology. This week according to the Green Car Congress,

“J. Craig Venter Institute Researchers Clone and Engineer Bacterial Genomes in Yeast and Transplant Genomes Back into Bacterial Cells; Major Advance for Synthetic Biology” http://www.greencarcongress.com/2009/08/jcvi-20090821.html “Researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) report a major advance in synthetic biology. In a paper published online 20 August in the journal Science, they describe new methods with which the entire bacterial genome from Mycoplasma mycoides was cloned in a yeast cell by adding yeast centromeric plasmid sequence to the bacterial chromosome and modified in yeast using yeast genetic systems. This modified bacterial chromosome was then isolated from yeast and transplanted into a related species of bacteria, Mycoplasma capricolum, to create a new type of M. mycoides cell. This is the first time that genomes have been transferred between branches of life—from a prokaryote to eukaryote and back to a prokaryote.”

And finally, DailyFinance Writes about,

Putting veggies on the front line: U.S. Navy seeks biofuels for jets,

Alex Salkever writes for DailyFinance that,

“Biofuels recently got a big boost from the U.S. Navy with an announcement that Naval Air Systems Command would flight test fighter jets running on biofuels next spring or summer. This is a big vote of confidence for biofuels, given that fuel failure in a combat aircraft is likely to be a life-threatening event, particularly at higher speeds.”

Salkever goes on to write,

“The Navy has asked for 40,000 gallons of jet fuel to test. The fuel could be made from any number of feedstocks including algae, jatropha, and camelina. In a politically astute move, the Navy specifically is looking for feedstocks not derived from crops used for human food, such as corn, palm or soy oil.”

Check back in for our roundup next week. If you have a blog you think we should look at, leave a note by using our comment feature.