Thursday, October 30, 2014 — 3:30 PM to 4:30 PM EDT

PARK AND VEVA REILLY DISTINGUISHED SEMINAR - “Genetic and Metabolic Engineering of Clostridium pasteurianum for Production of Butanol as a Renewable Biofuel” by Michael Pyne, PhD, Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Waterloo

ABSTRACT: The Acetone-Butanol-Ethanol (ABE) fermentation by anaerobic bacteria from the genus Clostridium was one of the first large-scale industrial bioprocesses, operating globally for the production of acetone during the first half of the 20th Century. Feedstock and product recovery costs prevented the ABE process from remaining profitable and acetone production was overtaken by the developing petroleum industry. Today, as a result of mounting environmental and political concerns surrounding the consumption of finite resources, we are in the midst of a potential revival of the ABE fermentation, this time for the production of butanol, a superior biofuel to ethanol. Among the clostridia, Clostridium pasteurianum harnesses immense industrial potential owing to its unique metabolic capacity to ferment cheap and abundant waste glycerol into butanol. Currently, metabolic engineering of C. pasteurianum has been fundamentally impeded due to a lack of genetic tools and techniques available for the manipulation and improvement of this promising bacterium. 

This talk focusses on recent work in the development of genetic methods for modifying the central fermentative metabolism of C. pasteurianum. We have sequenced the organism’s complete genome and developed an electroporation-based methodology allowing high-level transfer of foreign DNA. We have also produced genetic mutants through the development of chromosomal gene disruption and downregulation methodologies. We are currently investigating the use of advanced chromosomal engineering techniques based on homologous recombination to engineer the central fermentative metabolism of C. pasteurianum. Collectively these tools should contribute to the advancement of C. pasteurianum as a potential industrial host for the economical production of butanol from low-value, crude glycerol.

Biosketch: Michael received his PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo in April 2014 working under the supervision of Professor C. Perry Chou and Professor Murray Moo-Young of the University of Waterloo and Dr. Duane Chung, CEO of Algaeneers Inc. and Neemo Inc. 

He completed a BSc in Honours Biochemistry and Biotechnology from Wilfrid Laurier University in 2008. Collectively, Michael has authored 10 research papers and book chapters, and is an inventor on one US patent application. His doctoral accomplishments have been recognized through several awards and scholarships, including an NSERC Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship, the Dr. M. Chandrashekar Memorial Award in Sustainable Energy, the Murray Moo-Young Biotechnology Award, and a Sandford Fleming Teaching Assistantship Excellence Award. Michael is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Waterloo in the same lab where he obtained his PhD and in collaboration with industrial partners, Algaeneers Inc. and Neemo Inc.

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