Genetic engineering is possibly the most exciting field of science today as it allows for the creation of organisms and systems capable of performing almost any task if correctly designed. Our focus is spread between projects that have high impact and projects that are simply fun and help get people interested and involved in biotech.
Lactose Intolerance Gene Therapy
Lactose intolerance is a strange affliction in so far as it's only really a problem in our modern world where milk is incredibly pervasive and readily available. People with a mutant version of the lactase gene continue to produce the enzyme needed to break down lactose well into adulthood. Those without this gene or one that only produces small amounts of lactase are lactose intolerant and cannot process the sugar. These individuals suffer from embarassing and painful effects when lactose is consumed due to it being fermented by stomach bacteria instead of broken down and absorbed. To correct this, we've used a well studied viral vector based gene therapy to attempt to induce lactose tolerance in an adult male human for the first time. READ MORE
Growing Spider Silk in Yeast
Some of the most exciting next generation materials are often based on or inspired by materials found in nature. Spider silk for example is just as strong as kevlar or stronger but is extremely light weight. The trick though is producing the silk en mass as spiders cant be used to produce silk the way silkworms are. Enter yeast as a surrogate silk producer. By engineering a common yeast species to produce and excrete the silks they can be made in the same way that wine or beer is made, but rather than alcohol as an end product, you'd harvest the silk. Further the silks can be modified to have extra properties like mineralizing or be permanently brightly colored. READ MORE
Glowing Food and Drinks
They say math is the universal language but the true universal language is food. It's something everyone can appreciate and so makes for a perfect place to introduce the possibilities of biotech. We're working on several food projects that involve making edible bacteria or yeast produce non toxic glowing/color pigments or become bio luminescent. These projects aren't meant for sale but rather to get people interested in biotech and also to have some fun in the lab. The color proteins can be applied to the silk project as a method to color the final silks.