Synthetic biology is an empowered genetic engineering discipline that comprises the design, fabrication and incorporation of synthetic DNA molecules into living organisms. Synthetic biology speeds up the design-build-test-learn cycle, solving long-standing biological research challenges.
The genus Burkholderia is one group of bacteria for which their industrial use can benefit from synthetic biology.
The long-term goal of this research program is to unleash Burkholderia’s biotechnological potential by the development of synthetic biology tools. By identifying and characterizing Burkholderia genetic elements that control growth, survival, and energy production, we aim to engineer fully controllable Burkholderia strains.
My laboratory has developed several genetic tools that can be applied in gene and genome editing to manipulate desired features in Burkholderia strains for growth control during biotechnological applications. The latest technology we developed is CRISPR-based interference (CRISPRi) for Burkholderia.
In collaboration with Dr. David Levin, From Biosystems Engineering, U. of Manitoba, we are looking into the ability of Bcc bacteria to degrade polyesters used in the production of biodegradable plastics. Once the most active strains are identified, we will study the specificity of the bioplastic degrading enzymes and the genetic elements involved. The next step will be to edit the strain’s genome to produce a strain active regarding biodegradation, but defective in terms of pathogenicity.
We have developed a method for screening Burkholderia strains for bioplastic degradation on agar containing colloidal suspensions of plastics. By using large-scale transposon mutagenesis, we are identifying related genetic elements.