Transgenic Cyanobacteria: A Novel Direct Secretion of Glucose for Energy Harvesting

Physical Sciences : Materials and Compounds

Available for licensing


  • R. Malcolm Brown, Jr., Ph.D. , School of Biological Sciences
  • David Nobles, Jr. , School of Biological Sciences

Background/unmet need

The US Department of Energy has stated that the most realistic source for mass production of biofuels is the conversion of cellulose biomass to ethanol. However, cultivation of plant crops for feedstock is costly, both economically and environmentally. Using algae or cyanobacteria for the production of biofuels can address some of these challenges, but the most significant costs for the conversion of ligno-cellulose to biofuel are the intensive pretreatment and enzymatic digestion required to convert cellulose to glucose for subsequent fermentation.  

Invention Description

A research group at The University of Texas at Austin, led by Prof. R. Malcolm Brown, Jr., has engineered a cyanobacterial strain that can secrete more than 100 times the glucose that wild-type strains can under the same growth conditions. Additionally, glucose is liberated without pre-treatment or apparent harm to the cells. After incubation in acidic buffer, cells can be returned to growth medium and subsequently recycled for continued glucose harvest. This strain can be cultivated on non-arable land and grown in salt water, conserving valuable croplands and freshwater resources for food production, and fixating a significant amount of CO2 into photosynthetic metabolic products, contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gases.


  • This strain can be cultured in salt water
  • Pretreatment and enzymatic digestion not necessary
  • Cells can be returned to the growth medium for the production of more glucose for subsequent harvest.

Market potential/applications

Biofuel production

Development Stage

Lab/bench prototype