The green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is an invaluable reference organism to research fields including algal, plant and ciliary biology (1). The plethora of genetic and molecular techniques available for its manipulation means it is now at the cusp of becoming a photoautotrophic industrial biotechnology (IB) platform on par with Escherichia coli or yeast (2). However, long-standing inefficiencies in transgene expression and targeted nuclear gene editing have been remaining hurdles to this potential being fully exploited. Recent technological advances including our seminal work using CRISPR (3) enabled efficient, targeted gene modifications with nucleotide precision in C. reinhardtii. These transformational advances now enable, for the first time, rapid engineering of C. reinhardtii as photoautotrophic strains for IB. Remaining limitations for effective metabolic engineering include transgene silencing and instability. However, gene editing now allows us to overcome these limitations via rapid strain engineering. This project aims to develop C. reinhardtii as an industrial chassis through extensive gene editing efforts in close collaboration with our industrial partner, ScotBio (www.scotbio.com).
The student will perform a dedicated 3-month placement at ScotBio to test the performance of the most promising IB strains in pre-commercial volumes. Overall, our project will provide the framework to develop core research skills as well as excellent cross-disciplinary training, including skills in communication, working with industry, and public engagement.