Optimization of Plant Production
The core aims of plant platform optimization are (1) the genetic selection of target plants for Mars environments; (2) characterization of their use of Far-red photons as photosynthetically active radiation; (3) a characterization of plant/microbe synergies in restricted root-zone volumes; (4) production of an engineered plant microbiome for improved fitness and yield on long-duration missions; (5) use of the CRISPR/Cas9 engineering of plants with increased photosynthetic efficiency; (6) and use of the direct transmission of solar radiation for plant (rice, potato and lettuce) growth through fiber optics and the photobiological optimization of supplementary wavelengths.
Plant-Based Production of Biopharmaceuticals
Our primary goal is using plant systems to provide a biomanufacturing solution for producing biopharmaceuticals to respond health complications. The primary aims are (1). Design of codon optimized synthetic gene for target molecules (e.g. bone anabolic drug, anticancer drug) for producing in plant systems (e.g. Lettuce, Rice and Potato). (2) Optimizing the transient agroinfiltration method for high-level production of a target molecule in the selected plant platforms. (3) Screening and selection of stable transgenic lines for continuing production of target molecules in mars like environments. (4) Developing and optimizing the protein A-viral particles for target molecule purification from plant biomass. (5) Structural and functional characterization of plant recombinant target molecules.
Cyanobacterial Pharmaceutical and Nutrient Production
To augment the plant-based foods we have proposed above, we will utilize our expertise in engineering and optimizing non-model organisms to accelerate the use of Spirulina as an advanced food and pharmaceutical supplement. The target is nutritionally-rich and medicinal cyanobacteria Arthrospira platensis and Arthrospira maxima have been described as a possible competitive option to plant-based space farming.
The primary goal is to engineer the photosynthetic cyanobacteria Spirulina to serve both as an Astronaut food source and a source of medicine(s). The initial proof of concept will be production of aspirin, which requires the introduction of two heterologous genes from Agaricus bisporus and from Escherichia coli. Although Spirulina is currently grown at the industrial scale as a food source, the use of Spirulina as a production host for any engineered product has not been reported. Genetic transformation of this species has been reported in a few academic papers and a patent from Matrix Genetics, but in general engineering this species is still in its infancy.