Primary Investigator: Micahel Smanski
Co-Investigators: Dr. Dimitri Perusse (Postdoctoral Research Scholar)
Industry Partners: Novoclade
Award Type: Seed Grant - Postdoctoral Research Scholar
Problem: Microbial enzymes can degrade many harmful pollutants. Applying purified enzyme to contaminated soils or water can be cost prohibitive and ineffective, particularly when the pollutants are sequestered into complex organic matrices. In these cases, the enzymes cannot access the pollutants to break them down. Releasing live transgenic microorganisms expressing the enzymes faces difficult-to-overcome regulatory hurdles.
Solution: Transgenic animals offer several advantages for the on-site delivery of bioremediation enzymes. (1) They can functionally express microbial enzymes from diverse organisms, including bacteria and fungi. (2) They can break down organic matrices (e.g., plant matter) to free the pollutant and make it accessible to enzymatic degradation. (3) They can be easily sterilized via irradiation or genetic techniques to provide strict biocontainment and prevent against the release of transgenes into the environment.
Impact: If successful, this would be a new paradigm for bioremediation. The proof-of-concept could be extended to nearly any environment (aquatic, soil, marine, etc.) using different host animals.