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    BioTechnology Institute
    University of Minnesota
    140 Gortner Labs
    1479 Gortner Avenue
    St. Paul, MN 55108-6106

    612-625-5780 FAX

News Highlights

BTI’s Dan Knights awarded $1M Minnesota Partnership Grant

Assistant Professor Dan Knights and his collaborator at Mayo Clinic, Purna Kashyap, have been awarded a two-year grant for $976,896. The goals of the project are to understand the role of gut microbes in irritable bowel syndrome, and to develop approaches for shifting the gut micro biomes of patients toward a healthier state. Irritable bowel syndrome is a common condition affecting nearly one in five Americans.

Professional connections & research opportunities lead BTI’s Tony Dean to China

Tony Dean heads to China’ss Sun Yat-sen University as part of that country’ss Thousand Talents program. Dean will set up a second research lab focused on population genetics during a three-year part-time appointment. Read more at CBS Connect: Palm Trees and Population Genetics

Predicting How Microbes Will Work Together

Crystal BallResearchers working with BTI faculty members Yiannis Kaznessis and Claudia Schmidt-Dannert have devised a way to accurately predict growth and behavior of synthetic ecological systems. The predictions are based on mathematical models of growth and chemical signaling pathways between bacteria and yeast in a simulated synthetic ecological system. more >>

Protein Microcompartments Improve Biocatalytic Processes

Microcompartment structureBioTechnology Institute researchers recently reproduced bacterial protein microcompartments in non-native host cells. These small polyhedral structures within certain bacteria act as a kind of box or room where enzymes can react more efficiently. Being able to create these reaction compartments in various hosts promises to improve and streamline biocatalytic processes. more >>

Balancing the Body's Bacterial Ecosystems

SadowskyBioTechnology Institute Director Michael Sadowsky and University physician Alexander Khoruts are part of a team that has developed a way to transplant bacteria into a patient's colon that will help cure C. difficile infections of the intestinal tract by re-establishing a healthy balance in the colon’s bacterial ecosystem. more >>

New Insights into the Origins of Multicellularity

Yeast snowflakeBTI researchers headed by Michael Travisano, have demonstrated how multicellular organisms can evolve from single-celled individuals. This important transition has long been a mystery to scientists. The researchers showed that the ability to cluster and the ability to live together cooperatively in groups were key steps. more >>

New Program Director Will Market BTI Research

SadowskyA key to future success for the University of Minnesota BioTechnology Institute (BTI) lies in the expansion of its ties with faculty of various disciplines and in the marketing to industry of it's facilities and the exciting advances being made there. New BTI Program Director Tim Tripp understands this paradigm for success. more >>

Innovation Investment Program Announced

SadowskyThe BioTechnology Institute (BTI), in partnership with the Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC), recently announced a new program to encourage the development of technologies with significant commercial appeal. The emphasis on commercialization is part of a heightened awareness of the value and potential marketability of work being done at the University. more >>

Researchers are Key Step Closer to Renewable 'Petroleum'

FriasMinnesota researchers are a key step closer to making renewable petroleum fuels using bacteria, sunlight and carbon dioxide, a goal funded by a $2.2 million United States Department of Energy grant. Graduate student Janice Frias, who earned her doctorate in January, made the critical step by figuring out how to use a protein to transform fatty acids produced by the bacteria into ketones, which can be cracked to make hydrocarbon fuels. more >>

How to make 'green' fossil fuels more >>

Synthetic Ecology Theme Highlighted in Spring Symposium

SynecoThe synthetic ecology theme of the University of Minnesota Biocatalysis Initiative was highlighted in an April 20th symposium featuring keynote addresses by Douglas Weibel of the University of Wisconsin and Allan Konopka of the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). more >>

Study Finds Higher Temperatures More Effective in
Treating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in Wastewater Solids

LaParaUtilizing higher temperatures in the treatment of wastewater solids may be an effective tool in fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria, according to Timothy LaPara, a civil engineering researcher with the BioTechnology Institute. Lapara found that heating solid waste to 130 degrees Fahrenheit (55 degrees Celsius) was particularly effective in eliminating the genes that confer antibiotic resistance. more >>

Team Minnesota Wins iGEM 2010 Gold

iGEM 2010A Minnesota team of five undergraduate students led by an advising group of three post-docs and two BioTechnology Institute faculty members claimed gold in a major category of iGEM 2010 - the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition hosted annually by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). more >>

BTI shares in $3 million for new drug

NicZResearchers from the University of Minnesota's BioTechnology Institute (BTI) and Institute for Therapeutics Discovery and Development (ITDD), in partnership with the Arizona-based company Valley Fever Solutions Inc. and the University of Arizona, have been awarded a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop and study the use of the small molecule nikkomycin Z (NikZ) as a potentially curative therapy for Valley Fever. more >>

Major funding awarded for research effort aimed at
developing enzyme testing for food contaminants

WackettThe National Center for Food Protection and Defense, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence, recently awarded $1 million to a group of researchers headed by Larry Wackett, Distinguished McKnight University Professor with the BioTechnology Institute. The grant was made for the development of a generalized method to test for food adulterants using enzymes. more >>

BTI Research is Genesis for New
Water Treatment Business Venture

NewWaterTechnology based on research by the BioTechnology Institute's Michael Sadowsky and Lawrence Wackett will be the basis of a new product being developed by two recent graduates of the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering. Joe Mullenbach and Alex Johansson are licensing the technology from the University of Minnesota to develop a new type of filter for municipal drinking water systems through their NewWater start-up business venture. more >>

Kaznessis Discusses Synthetic Biology on Radio

kaznessisProfessor Yiannis Kaznessis explained the benefits and perils of synthetic biology during an interview for Access Minnesota. The interview is broadcast by nearly 40 radio stations. Kaznessis commented on the recent 'creation' a living cell from DNA that was synthesized in a lab by scientists in California and about other aspects of synthetic biology. more >>

BTI Retreat Introduces New Faculty

Faculty retreatA recent retreat was the opportunity for BioTechnology Institute (BTI) faculty and their lab members to learn more about each other and about the broad range of disciplines and applications encompassed by their collective research. It was also the first chance many had to hear from some of the ten new faculty recently added to the BTI. more >>

Coal from Algae Study Published

Algal coalThe results of a BioTechnology Institute (BTI) sponsored study on the potential for producing coal from algae were recently published online in ScienceDirect. The study focused on research conducted by Dr. Steve Heilmann at BTI utilizing hydrothermal carbonization (HTC), a wet process that involves 'pressure-cooking' the algae. This process creates a char product similar to coal that can be converted into gasoline and other chemicals or burned to generate heat and electricity. more >>

Minnesota team wins gold in iGEM 2009

iGEMA Minnesota team of seven undergraduate and four graduate students, guided by BTI Professor Yiannis Kaznessis (Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science), were awarded a Gold Medal at The International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM) for their work on SynBioSS, a software tool that assists in designing and constructing synthetic biological systems. more >>

Hydrocarbon fuel from bacteria wins DOE funding

DOEThe U.S. Department of Energy has selected 37 projects for major federal stimulus funding through their Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) venue to pursue breakthrough energy research. BTI faculty member Larry Wackett is lead investigator for a University team which will receive $2.2 million to explore production of liquid hydrocarbon transportation fuels directly from sunlight, water and carbon dioxide using bacteria. more >>

Meet BTI Director Michael Sadowsky

SadowskyDistinguished McKnight Professor Michael Sadowsky, a recognized authority on using microorganisms to clean up the environment, was appointed director of the BioTechnology Institute effective Sept. 1. A professor in the University’s Department of Soil, Water and Climate and co-director of the Microbial and Plant Genomics Institute, Sadowsky has been a BTI faculty member since 1997 and at the University since 1989. more >>

New field test to detect melamine in milk

MilkThe U.S. Research conducted by the Wackett and Sadowsky laboratories identified an enzyme that degrades melamine, releasing ammonia that can be detected with a simple test. This has led to the use of the enzyme in a commercial test kit for detecting melamine in infant formula and other foods. more >>

Click here to see the story on KARE-11.

Bacteria Produce Hydrocarbons

FriasWorking with synthetic chemist Jack Richman in the lab of Distinguished McKnight University Professor Larry Wackett, graduate student Janice Frias has identified hydrocarbon synthesis in bacteria of the genus Arthrobacter - a key finding in the quest to produce fuels through biosynthesis of hydrocarbons. more >>

Breakthrough research


Biofuels Feasibility Study

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White Earth Chisago-Isanti-Pine

Biotechnology Gateway

Biotechnology Gateway

Biotechnology Gateway

The Biotechnology Gateway takes a look at researchers and important research developments at the BioTechnology Institute. Download a copy to learn more!
Download PDF of the Fall 2010 issue >>
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