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A new genome engineering machine that tweaks dozens of genes to create billions of unique strains...
"This technique allows us to do some amount of rapid evolution," says Harris Wang, a researcher at Harvard Medical School,
The American chemicals firm DuPont, for instance, spent nearly seven years and hundreds of millions of dollars to identify 20 genetic changes that optimise microbes to produce a chemical used as a commercial solvent called 1,3-propanediol, Isaacs and Wang say.
By contrast, the new approach, which is called multiplex automated genome engineering or MAGE, can create hundreds or thousands of mutations in a few days at a cost of a few thousand dollars.
Currently, the researchers are teaming up with biofuels and chemical manufacturers in hopes of creating blockbuster strains in the lab that could eventually be used on an industrial scale.