Metabolic Engineering

INDUSTRIAL BIOTECHNOLOGY  / Biofuels and Industrial Biotechnology

Research Interests

Application of synthetic biology, metabolic engineering, genome editing, RNAi technology, chloroplast engineering approaches for enhanced lipid for sustainable algae biofuel and terpenoid drugs biosynthesis in plants.

Description of Research

Research Partnership with Industries

MBE Group has been actively collaborating with different industrial partners like Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), Aban Infrastructure Pvt Ltd, Chennai, Petroleum Corporation Limited (CPCL), PanAridus-ApolloTyres-Ohio State University-USA, MargEnergy-USA and Tata Steel Ltd. to provide comprehensive and integrated research-based solutions to challenging problems.

Mission Innovation Research

Under the mission innovation program, we are engaged with our UEA-UK international research partner in genetic engineering of Euglena to produce alkanes for drop-in-jetfuels.

CO2 Capture for Enhanced Algae Productivity

In nature, beyond a limit, alga cannot sequester aquatic CO2. By silencing the barrier gene present in the algal cell wall with RNAi approach, we have enabled the algal cell thrive in more than 10% CO2. Moreover, we have genetically modified alga with LCIA-LCIB transporters to concentrate the CO2 in the RuBisCo chamber. These approaches have enhanced the biomass and lipid productivity manifold.

Remediation of Waste Material from Cellulosic Ethanol Biorefineries

On an average, a distillery generates about 15 litres (L) of spent wash to produce 1 L ethanol. In India, about 212 distilleries generate over 30 billion L spent wash annually. It is dark brown in colour due to melanoidin pigments, hazardous to aquatic ecosystem, reduce the photosynthesis and depletes dissolved oxygen from water. Using integrated biological approach, we are able to clean water upto 96%, making it is suitable for algae cultivation and agriculture produce.

New Biofertilizer

After processing the algae wet biomass through hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL), residual biochar is produced as a co-product, which is suitable to promote the plants growth as well as enriching the carbon-content of the degraded soil. The disintegration of genomic DNA by HTL processing is also useful in mitigating the GMOs concerns.

Terpenoid Drug Biosynthesis

Our group is engaged for a long time in the synthetic biology approach for producing artemisinin in edible plant and coherent malaria treatment by oral delivery of plant cells. An orally fed pure artemisinin has lower bioavailability whereas artemisinin bioencapsulated in intact plant cells is protected from rapid degradation by hepatic and intestinal cytochrome enzymes. Human digestive enzymes are incapable of breaking down glycosidic bonds in the plant cell wall. This act is done in the gut by microbes to release the drug into the blood stream for coherent treatment of malaria.

The Group has recently been involved in improving photosynthetic organisms using the approaches of synthetic biology and participated in the meetings/consortia “Contributions of the international plant science community to the fight against human infectious diseases – part 1: Epidemic and pandemic diseases and – part 2: Affordable drugs in edible plants for endemic and re-emerging diseases” (Plant Biotech J, 2021, Plant Biotech J, 2021) respectively. The group developed the bioremediation technology “Cultivation of microalgae on unhydrolysed waste molasses syrup using mass cultivation strategy for improved biodiesel”. Further, in collaboration of Tata Steel Pvt Ltd., the MBE group has developed a genetically improved super algal strain that can thrive well in industrial exhaust (10% CO2).

Genome editing of algae and cultivation in cost effective vertical Photobioreactors (PBRs) in presence of industrial CO2

Recent Publications

Gómez et al., 2021. Contributions of the international plant science community to the fight against human infectious diseases – part 1: Epidemic and pandemic diseases. Plant Biotechnology Journal. 1-16.

He et al., 2021. Contributions of the international plant science community to the fight against infectious diseases in humans – part 2: Affordable drugs in edible plants for endemic and re-emerging diseases. Plant Biotechnology Journal. 1-20. PMID: 34181810 DOI: 10.1111/pbi.13658

Nawkarkar et al., 2020. Characterization of the Chloroplast Genome Facilitated Genetic Transformation of Parachlorella kessleri-I, A Potential Marine Alga for Biofuel Production. Current Genomics, 21: 610-623, DOI: 10.2174/1389202921999201102164754

Kaushal et al., 2020. Chloroplast genome transformation of medicinal plant Artemisia annua. Plant Biotechnology Journal, 18(11): 2155-2157 doi: 10.1111/pbi.13379

Bhatnagar et al., 2019. Amelioration of biomass and lipid in marine alga by an endophytic fungus Piriformospora indica. Biotech for Biofuels 12, 176 PubMed

Malhotra et al., 2016. Compartmentalized metabolic engineering for artemisinin biosynthesis and effective malaria treatment by oral delivery of plant cells. Mol Plant, 9, 1464-1477 PubMed


Kang. B., McMahan. C.M., Whalen. M.C., Dong, N., Kumar, S. 2016. Engineering rubber production in plants. US 20140325699, WO/2014/152747.

Kumar S and Singh AK. Method of Utilization of Carbon Concentration Mechanism in Micro-Algal Species to Increase Production of Lipids and Obtain Bio-Fuel. Indian Patent Application No: 2856/DEL/2015.