Cellectis has successfully engineered the genome of photosynthetic algae with a view to biofuel production

Published on June 26, 2013

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Paris, June 26, 2013 - Cellectis (Alternext: ALCLS), the genome engineering specialist, announced today that it has successfully used engineered nucleases to genetically reprogram diatoms with a view to producing biofuels. This technological breakthrough was revealed by Dr. Fayza Daboussi, the Cellectis Group’s VP of Synthetic Biology and Technology of Cellectis Group on June 26 at the “Molecular Life of Diatoms” meeting in Paris, France.

The results presented at the “Molecular Life of Diatoms” meeting by Dr. Fayza Daboussi, who led the study, demonstrate the strength of Cellectis’ engineered nucleases for efficient gene inactivation and/or gene insertion in diatoms. Cellectis has generated a lipid‑rich diatom which highlights the significance of this breakthrough. This work will lead to new opportunities in synthetic biology and especially biofuel production from photosynthesis and CO2.

Cellectis develops and produces engineered site-specific endonucleases such as meganucleases and TALENTM which have recently emerged as the most powerful approach in genome engineering[1]. By targeting specific sequences within diatoms’ genome, these nucleases can be used to accurately insert, correct, or inactivate specific genes. This first step offers a new opportunity for synthetic biology in microorganisms previously inaccessible to rational genome engineering.

With the recent whole genome sequencing of several diatom species such as Thalassiosira pseudonana and Phaeodactylum tricornutum, a new era of post‑genomics research has begun. Full sequencing provides fresh opportunities to improve our fundamental understanding of the biology of diatoms, and to build a molecular foundation for new industrial applications. However the tools available for generating industrial strains are still based on non-targeted over-expression or gene repression using RNA interference ([2]&[3]). This is where Cellectis’ innovations and technologies can offer new perspectives.


[1] Compact designer TALENs for efficient Genome engineering

Marine BeurdeleyFabian BietzJin LiSeverine ThomasThomas StoddardAlexandre JuilleratFeng ZhangDaniel F. VoytasPhilippe Duchateau & George H. Silva

Nature Communications 4,

Article number: 1762 (2013) doi:10.1038/ncomms2782

[2] De Riso V, et al. (2009) gene silencing in the marine diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum. Nucleic Acids Research 37(14):e96.

[3] Radakovits R, Jinkerson RE, Darzins A, & Posewitz MC (2010) Genetic

engineering of algae for enhanced biofuel production. Eukaryotic Cell 9(4):486501.

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