IDBR: TYPE A - Microfluidic Fungal Transformation System for Ultra High-Throughput Functional Genomics
An award is made to the Texas A&M University to develop an instrument based on microfluidic chips that enables ultra-fast genetic transformation and screening of fungi. Fungi play important roles, both beneficial and detrimental, in human life and in the earth''s ecosystem. Rapidly improving molecular genetics and genomic technologies have allowed scientists to understand the inner workings of fungi and to utilize such information for making significant improvements in fungi-based bioproduction and mitigating fungal human and crop diseases. Despite this revolution in functional genomics, deleting or replacing genes in fungi is still the preferred method to unambiguously characterize their functions, a process that remains costly, time-consuming, and labor-intensive. The project is to develop an instrument that enables highly efficient genetic transformation of fungi using electric field and acoustic pressure, followed by rapid screening of the successfully transformed mutant strains using the latest microfluidic lab-on-a-chip technology. The developed instrument will be beta-tested by several fungal biology researchers and subsequently broadly disseminated through hands-on demonstrations at conferences and video journals.This instrument is expected to revolutionize functional genomics research worldwide in both fungal biology and more broadly in microbiology by providing a streamlined gene-knockout instrument with orders-of-magnitude improvement in efficiency and cost savings. The instrument will also have significant long-term impacts on the agricultural and biotechnology industry. The proposed instrument development process requires close collaboration between engineers and microbiologists, and therefore will provide invaluable multidisciplinary research environment to train the next-generation of leaders in science and engineering. Notably, the project will also offer our post-docs, graduate students and undergraduates to engage in outreach activities aimed at high schools and the general public in the interest of communicating scientific research and exciting discoveries.This award is being made jointly by two Programs- (1) Instrument Development for Biological Research, in the Division of Biological Infrastructure (Biological Sciences Directorate), and (2) Biotechnology, Biochemical and Biomass Engineering, in the Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems (Engineering Directorate).