Researcher to Genetically Modify Algae for Biodiesel

John Davis

A researcher at Iowa State University is genetically modifying algae to make it a better feedstock for biodiesel.

This article from Biodiesel Magazine
says Martin Spalding, ISU professor of genetics, development and cell biology,has received a $4.37 million grant U.S. Department of Energy to stack traits in algae, specifically, one type of alga, Chlamydomonas, whose genome has already been mapped out:

Spalding hopes stacking Chlamydomonas’ desirable traits will lead to more oil production and thermal resistance, ultimately developing a desirable feedstock for biodiesel and other renewable fuels production.

“We have a sequenced genome, we understand the metabolism, and we have the tools available to us to work with this alga,” Spalding said. Much of the current research on algae is being conducted on wild strains that have certain desirable traits such as high oil yield, but Spalding said, “The limitation with that strategy is that it has no flexibility because the algae can’t be manipulated genetically.”

Since the Chlamydomonas genome is already mapped, however, work can be done to tailor the genetic makeup of this alga to meet the growing biofuel industry’s needs.

It’s a three-year study that Spalding will conduct with some fellow ISU professors and Purdue University researchers as well.

algae, Biodiesel