Sapphire Energy & Institute for Systems Biology Partner on Biofuels

11/1/12Follow @bvbigelow

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nonprofit ISB in 2000 to take a multi-disciplinary, systems biology approach to biomedical research. The institute also has served as a showcase for what Hood calls “P4 Medicine,” healthcare that is predictive, preventive, personalized and participatory.

As a world leader in systems biology, the ISB has the ability to combine massive amounts of different kinds of data and to build detailed genetic models of complex processes, such as algal production of crude oil. Such models can then used by Sapphire to predict how algae would respond to changes in nutrients, water quality, temperature, and other environmental conditions.

In a statement released today, ISB’s Hood says, “We hope to reverse engineer the gene networks in algae and create strategies that will significantly improve the yield of green oil and crop protection and reduce significantly the time to market.”

Sapphire’s chief science officer, Alex Aravanis, also is quoted as saying, “By working with ISB to apply their systems biology approach, we’re able to more rapidly identify genes and regulatory pathways that can increase yield and move us toward our goal of making Green Crude a market-viable, crude oil alternative.”

Sapphire’s Zenk explained that while the company is more focused on the immediate commercialization of algae-based biofuels, “we need somebody looking ahead to the next generation.

“We’re not just throwing some stuff at them to do,” Zenk added. “We’re actually integrating some [scientific] teams.”

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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