Building New Metabolic Pathways

Building New Metabolic Pathways

By Kevin Coss

Microbes are nothing if not industrious. The metabolic pathways (linked series of chemical reactions) in these tiny organisms lead them to crank out a wide variety of molecules for all sorts of purposes — and that’s what has Mike Freeman’s attention.

“Some of these pathways are for chemical communication, some are for warfare, and others are completely unknown to us,” says Freeman, Ph.D., member of the University of Minnesota BioTechnology Institute and assistant professor of biochemistry, molecular biology, and biophysics. “A large part of what our lab does is looking at those genes and those pathways in unique organisms and studying them for the purpose of both basic science and biotechnology.”

Freeman’s research involves understanding how each piece of a biological system works and then combining and mixing those parts to “recircuit” pathways. This field, synthetic biology, aims to redirect microbes’ natural industriousness to produce a different, more desirable product. The intended purpose can span a wide range of applications, from producing compounds that help address bacteria’s growing resistance to antibiotics to developing molecules for use in the fragrance industry.

“You could use a microbe to do something it doesn’t already do in nature, for example, or engineer it to do it much better,” Freeman says. “We’re trying to put things together in unique ways to do what humans want, not what nature wants.”

Understanding the full scope of how a given pathway works, what it produces, and what larger purpose it serves requires a wealth of expertise. Fortunately, Freeman is part of the Synthetic Biology Research Cluster, which brings together faculty, postdoctoral fellows, staff, and students who study in the field to intermingle and learn from one another. This arrangement helps to spark collaborations that inspire new lines of research and enables the group to apply for larger grants with multiple principal investigators.

Freeman’s current research focus is on modifications that give molecules called peptides (smaller versions of proteins, with fewer pieces acting as “links” in their chain) more desirable properties. Peptide-based medications, such as the insulin used to treat diabetes, generally can’t be taken orally because stomach acids destroy the active compounds before they can provide any benefit. Modifying these peptides to remain stable through the digestive tract would open the possibility for peptide-based drugs to be taken as a pill — an option that makes it easier and more comfortable for patients to adhere to their medication schedule.

As another example, Freeman and his team are studying anti-cancer compounds derived from a specific type of fungus. Two promising varieties of peptides had previously been isolated from it, but the team went further in depth to study and isolate other “flavors” of these peptides with unique and useful characteristics. By optimizing the growing conditions in the lab for the fungi’s mycelia — the long, stringlike filaments that spread through the soil — they have been able to isolate a number of compounds from this fungus.

Apart from the medical field, a stronger understanding of synthetic biology could also help solve problems in manufacturing, agriculture, and other industries. While these solutions are appealing, what inspires Freeman the most about his research is the basic science — specifically, how much of it remains undiscovered.

In many other areas of science, researchers build upon a strong foundation of existing knowledge. Synthetic biology is different. It’s only recently that advances in genomic technology made it possible to study the workings and purposes of genes, proteins, and pathways at this level of detail.

“In some cases, the enzymes that we find, the pathways, the molecules have never been seen before in science,” he says. “Being able to explore these unknowns and add to the general scientific knowledge for humanity is what’s really satisfying to me.”

Tapping the Talents of Enzymes

Tapping the Talents of Enzymes

BTI researchers are working to discover, understand, and improve our ability to enlist the help of molecules that catalyze life.

by Mary Hoff

Enzymes are the movers and shakers of the biomolecular world. A class of proteins found in every cell of every living thing, they bring together molecules that would otherwise be reluctant to interact so they can combine, exchange parts, or otherwise alter each other.

In nature, enzymes facilitate thousands of processes from photosynthesis to decomposition. Enzymes speed up chemical reactions thousands of times faster than the reactions would occur on their own. Over the millennia, humans have found ways apply this superpower to accomplish a variety of useful goals from making beer and cheese, to making our laundry whiter and brighter, to cranking out millions of copies of a sample of DNA to solve crimes or find long-lost relatives.

“And that’s just the beginning,” says Romas Kazlauskas, professor in the department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics. “Enzymes can also learn how to do different things. We’re trying to figure out which parts are important and why they’re important, then design something different to do a reaction that doesn’t occur naturally.” By identifying enzymes, improving understanding of how they work, and applying them to new tasks, Kazlauskas and BTI colleagues are taking advantage of the billions of years of evolution that produced these molecules to make medicines, degrade pollutants, speed industrial processes, and more.


Trash to Treasure Kazlauskas is working with an enzyme found in nature that degrades PET plastic. First synthesized in the 1940s, PET (a form of polyethylene) is widely used for beverage and food containers with some 70 million tons generated every year—and much of that ending up in landfills and the ocean. Current efforts to recycle the material can only produce lower-quality plastics.

“One idea is to break down to component parts and resynthesize fresh plastic that would be just as good as what you started with,” he says.

Sound like a job for an enzyme? Kazlauskas thought so, too. But the likelihood of finding a suitable one in nature was slim because PET didn’t exist for most of evolutionary history. Nevertheless, in a compost heap in Japan, researchers recently found an enzyme that bacteria use to break down the waxy part of plants that could also break down PET.

Kazlauskas, along with graduate student Colin Pierce and colleagues, is working on modifying that enzyme known as cutinase, to improve its ability to degrade PET. The goal, ultimately, is to be able to develop a commercially viable way to turn old PET into new plastics without experiencing the loss of quality. This would not only reduce the load of plastic waste, it would also reduce pressure to produce more plastic, often from fossil fuels.

Kazlauskas sees huge opportunities beyond PET for efforts to extend nature’s ability to degrade compounds. “There are a lot of cases where we start making stuff and putting it out in nature, and people say it doesn’t degrade,” he says. “We’re finding bugs that can degrade these forever chemicals.” he says. By advancing the ability to modify such natural enzymes to make them do the job even better, the hope is to avoid the buildup of undesirable, manufactured compounds in the environment and reduce the need to make more from raw materials.


Life on the Edge

Turning somersaults in a sulfurous hot spring or clinging tenaciously to life on a glacier, the organisms studied by McKnight Presidential Fellow Trinity Hamilton, associate professor in the department of Plant and Microbial Biology, are the stars in microscopic world’s version of “Survivor.” Having evolved within living things, most enzymes work best under fairly mild conditions with respect to things like temperature and acidity. But not all. In the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park, Hamilton is studying how microbes—and the enzymes they use to carry out the activities of daily life—can survive regular temperature fluctuations of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) or more. And, on the other end of the spectrum, she’s also looking at how other microorganisms that live on ice maintain their function at low temperatures in the absence of liquid water.

Hamilton studies, among other things, enzymes that facilitate photosynthesis and function well up to 72 degrees Celsius, and then suddenly quit. “We have no idea why,” she says. “It’s really hard to perform autopsies on microbes.”

The ability of bacterial enzymes to function at various temperatures is behind the process that makes it possible to sequence DNA using what is called the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique. The enzyme used for this was isolated from bacteria in a hot spring in Yellowstone National Park. A better understanding of how bacteria keep these proteins active under extreme conditions could open the door to advancing our ability to solve other human challenges like preserving food or thriving in the face of climate change.

Molecular Assembly Line 

For Michael Smanski, a McKnight land grant professor in the department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics, the focus is on bringing together enzymes from different sources to create an efficient work team that can produce a specific molecule.

Most recently he’s been focusing on serofendic acid, a molecule found in the blood of fetal calves. In the early 2000s, researchers in Japan discovered that serofendic acid could prevent the untimely death of neurons and potentially serve as a therapy for minimizing damage from Parkinson’s disease, strokes, and other neurological trauma. The problem? It occurs in such small quantities that it would take 1,000 calves to make a minute 3 milligrams of active substance—providing dismal prospects for practical use.

Biosynthesis and enzymes to the rescue. Using databases describing enzymes from different organisms and the type of work each does, Smanski and colleagues designed a molecular assembly line that could make serofendic acid from readily available feedstock chemicals. Then they introduced the corresponding genes into a bacterium, enabling it to make the desired product.

As any industrial engineer would know, populating an assembly line with ready workers is only part of the solution, however. For efficiency’s sake, it’s also important to have the right capacity at every step of an assembly process to ensure that partially made products don’t pile up, or a slow step doesn’t drag down everything else. To optimize production of serofendic acid, Smanski has been tweaking the activity levels of the various enzymes relative to each other.

Even as he’s working on a strategy to improve outcomes for individuals with brain disorders, Smanski is also discovering principles that can be applied more broadly to optimizing artificial biosynthetic processes.

Optimizing a process means testing multiple levels of expression for the specific gene that’s coding for each enzyme along the way. If the assembly line consists of 15 enzymes, and researchers want to test five levels of expression for each, that would require 5 15 power—more than 30 billion—individual trials. Using combinatorial mathematics, Smanski is devising a strategy for selecting from those millions of possibilities, a mere 100 or so that are most likely to succeed, making the optimization process far more manageable.

“As improvements in the technical aspects of genetic engineering make it easier to rewrite the genetic blueprints of living organisms, learning how to efficiently sift through all of the possibilities of what-to-write is becoming more important,” Smanski says. “We think that our work at the interface of combinatorial mathematics and genetic engineering will benefit any application that requires more than one or a few genes working together.”


Self-Assembling Scaffold

Bringing multiple enzymes together in an assembly line is far more easily said than done. The molecules involved in sequential steps must be physically located close enough to each other to be able to pass a product-in-the-making down the line. They also must be positioned correctly at their stations so they can accomplish their task.

Distinguished McKnight University Professor Claudia Schmidt-Dannert is on it. Rather than identifying enzymes to string together to accomplish a molecule-making task, she is working on the assembly line itself.

Her goal is to not only design a stable assembly line of enzymes able to make a useful product but to genetically modify a microorganism—say, the bacterium E. coli—so that it can produce it on its own. Such a self-assembling scaffold, she believes, could dramatically improve the function of molecular assembly lines, reducing the cost of producing pharmaceuticals and other useful products.

“If we stabilize enzymes, we can make reactions more efficient,” she says.

Schmidt-Dannert and colleagues recently received a patent for a self-assembling, modular scaffold that co-locates enzymes in a way that enhances their ability to efficiently produce desired molecules. Her current focus is on developing scaffolds as materials that can correctly self-assemble into 3-dimensional architectures to organize and support enzyme functions. This would allow the manufacture of a broad range of chemicals including pharmaceutically active molecules—a process that can be extremely difficult using conventional chemical synthesis methods. 

She’s also applying her strategy to making molecular assembly lines more economical by including enzymes that recycle required co-factors, which are molecules or metals that assist enzymes in assembling a molecular product.

“You need to recycle the [co-factors]. Otherwise, the process is too expensive,” she says. “A scaffold helps make that possible.”


Jen Kalaidis-Meslow

Jen Kalaidis-Meslow

Jen Kalaidis-Meslow

Administrative Manager

Fiscal strategic support for departmental budgets, MN Drive initiatives, administrative reports, and day-to-day operations of the PMB, BTI, and EEB administrative cluster.

Jen Kalaidis-Meslow is the Administrative Manager for the St. Paul Administrative Cluster at the College of Biological Sciences. Her commitment to environmentalism and sustainability brought her to CBS after having spent the last few years living and working in Los Angeles. As a new Twin Cities resident, Jen enjoys exploring the local bike trails, lakes, and restaurants the metro area has to offer. An avid traveler, she enjoys visiting new locations, both near and far, and hopes to one day visit all seven continents.

About BTI

About BTI

About BTI

The BioTechnology Institute (BTI) provides advanced research, training, and industry interaction in biological process technology, a major area of biotechnology research. The Institute is the central University of Minnesota vehicle for coordinated research in the biological, chemical, and engineering aspects of biotechnology and home to the MnDRIVE Environment Initiative 

Innovative Research

BTI faculty conduct research over a broad spectrum of disciplines including microbial physiology, metabolic pathway engineering, genetics and cell biology, functional genomics, animal cell culture, biodegradation of hazardous materials, molecular evolution, biological diversity, green chemistry, natural product synthesis, protein engineering, and the development of biofuels and biopolymers from renewable resources.

Professional Training

Since 1990, the Institute has been the recipient of the prestigious NIH Training Grant in Biotechnology. This grant has provided financial support to graduate students completing degrees in biochemistry, microbiology, chemical engineering, chemistry, genetics, computer science, biomedical engineering, plant sciences, mathematics, health informatics, and electrical engineering. Many of these students have gone on to complete a PhD. 

Reflecting its cross-disciplinary nature, the Institute offers a Master of Science degree in Microbial Engineering. This program is favorably regarded by industry as a source of highly trained individuals familiar with both the biological sciences and engineering.

A Resource for Industry

In addition to the faculty laboratories, the Institute has established the Biotechnology Resource Center (BRC); a process scale pilot plant unique in the state and accessible to industrial and academic scientists for collaborative and contract research. The BioTechnology Institute also coordinates an active industrial outreach program that sponsors short courses and mini-symposia.

Biotechnology Resource Center
Synthetic Cells and Biofactories

Synthetic Cells and Biofactories

Kate Adamala and the Build-a-Cell consortium look to synthetic biology for insight into the origins of life and a source for vital raw materials.

By Bernard Cook III

Your phone, your food, and the fuel that powers your car all depend on oil-derived petrochemicals. But experts anticipate oil reserves will run dry as early as 2070, forcing industries dependent on petrochemicals to look for alternatives that would fundamentally change the way they do business–and the way we live.

But scientists like Kate Adamala (BTI/Genetics, Cell Biology and Development) see another path forward. They envision a world where oil reserves disappear but one where we’ll still be able to meet our need for petrochemicals. Their solution? Create more life.

Adamala, a chemical engineer by training, is working to build living organisms from nonliving chemical components. These “synthetic cells” can help scientists explore the origin of life, accelerate drug discovery, or provide a renewable source of resources, like petrochemicals.

At its core, a synthetic cell is an organism that exhibits lifelike qualities. Much like a car, which is a collection of metal parts until arranged in the right way, cells are chemical bundles organized in a particular manner. Adamala constructs synthetic cells in her lab by encapsulating nucleic acids, amino acids, and ribosomes (the building blocks of cellular life) within a protective lipid coating. This method, known as the “bottom-up” approach, offers a key advantage: complete control over the cell’s components.

Natural cells can also be engineered to perform specific functions, but they’re resistant to change, and coaxing them into producing large quantities of desirable chemicals comes at a cost. When scientists engineer cells to create petrochemicals, for example, the build-up of those chemicals can damage the cell. “No self-respecting cell will make those chemicals because it’s toxic to them.”

Synthetic cells, however, are a blank slate. “Because we make them from scratch, they don’t have the baggage of 4 billion years of evolution,” Adamala remarks. They can be manufactured to do what scientists want them to do (like churning out petrochemicals). But, even with this level of control, there are still compromises. Adamala likens this to canine domestication. “I want my dog to sit on my lap and keep me warm in the winter. And he does that, but he cannot go out and hunt … so that’s the trade-off we made.”

Before synthetic cells can support a robust biomanufacturing economy, scientists like Adamala also need to resolve the physics of how cells self-replicate. To date, researchers have yet to determine how to make synthetic cells reproduce on their own–a crucial step toward using these organisms as in mini, living biofactories.

Like many scientists, Adamala grew up watching science fiction films and was fascinated by the search for life beyond earth. She earned her Ph.D. in astrobiology, but synthetic biology allowed her to explore her passion while producing tangible benefits for society. “The synthetic cell engineering field presented itself as everything I always wanted. It has connections to origins and astrobiology, so I can still say I’m looking for life on Mars! But it’s also incredibly applicable. It could solve some of the biggest problems our economy is facing now.”

Adamala isn’t the only scientist excited about this approach to cell engineering. The Build-a-Cell consortium, co-founded and led by Adamala, intends to construct a network of scientists sharing ideas, data, success stories, and failures–not unlike open-source software platforms that depend on shared knowledge to drive innovation. Adamala is hopeful that by uniting researchers via Build-a-Cell, they’ll get there sooner rather than later.

Once we unlock their potential, synthetic cells could produce fuel for our cars, fibers for clothing, and fertilizers to increase crop yields. They may also accelerate biomedical discovery or offer a glimpse into the life of our earliest ancestors. One day, they may even enable us to survive on Mars.

The DNA Solution

The DNA Solution

Synthetic biology is poised to revolutionize everything from health care to climate change—and Michael Smanski is making the most of it.

By Mary Hoff

The exploding yeast and fluorescent fish are interesting, for sure. But for Michael Smanski, the real attraction of synthetic biology is the chance to work at the cusp of a new era in biology—one that holds promise for improving food production, medical care, climate change adaptation, pollution cleanup and more.

Living things use DNA as a template for creating proteins, which in turn control the processes that make life possible. Synthetic biology creates new forms of DNA and enlists microbes, plants, or other organisms to use these new forms to produce products or functions beneficial to humans.  

“Twenty years ago, the field of biology went through an interesting phase change that was catalyzed by the Human Genome Project: the ability to read DNA. And it touched every area of biology,” says Smanski, McKnight Land Grant professor in the College of Biological Sciences “The phase change we’re going through now is even more exciting than that—and that’s the ability to write with DNA. It’s changing biology from a descriptive science, where we’re trying to learn about nature, to an engineering science, where we can ask, ‘What can life be programmed to do?’”

In Smanski’s case, the answer to that question appears virtually boundless. Trained as a biochemist and bacteriologist, he came to the University in 2014 because of its strength in both engineering and the natural sciences. In the few short years since, both synthetic biology and his research have expanded dramatically. Assembling a team of postdoctoral fellows and graduate students with expertise in computer science, chemistry and engineering as well as biology, he began exploring strategies for creating DNA-based assembly lines that microbes could use to make materials useful for humans.

In one line of research, he and his colleagues have been working to optimize a bacteria-based system that produces drugs to treat disorders such as stroke or Parkinson’s disease. In another, he has led development of a novel strategy for ensuring that engineered organisms can’t produce viable progeny with their wild relatives (hence the exploding yeast).

More recently, Smanski has begun applying synthetic biology to more complex organisms, such as vascular plants, insects, and vertebrates. By modifying their genomes to incorporate useful traits while also removing their ability to breed with unmodified relatives, he’s creating innovative strategies for controlling disease-causing and ecosystem-disrupting pests without resorting to poisons.

“We have a few projects in plants to try to translate this for agriculture,” he says. Novoclade, a University biotech startup he helped found and for which he serves as chief technology officer, is exploring applications for controlling mosquitoes and stopping the spread of invasive carp (hence the fluorescent fish).

Some of the biggest challenges related to his work are not about altering molecules and coaxing them to perform desired tasks. Rather, they relate to the kinds of issues entrepreneurs encounter with any new technology: making sure they’re addressing real needs; identifying and mitigating potential unintended consequences, complying with regulatory constraints, listening and incorporating input from various stakeholders, scaling, and more. So, for instance, he’s involved in a national Manufacturing Innovation Institute called BioMADE that’s working to bridge the large and often unwieldy gap between being able to do something in a laboratory and being able to do it on a commercial scale. And he’s consulting with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, tribal governments, and others to ensure their concerns are addressed and their needs are met with his carp work.

“We think a lot about translating these technologies to the field and trying to do it responsibly, because we don’t want to develop a technology that the public doesn’t want,” he says. “We’re not just teaching people, we’re learning from them in ways that helps guide the direction that we take.”

As he sets his sights on new directions, Smanski is excited about the College of Biological Sciences’ recently announced efforts to make the University of Minnesota an international hub for frontline synthetic biology research and development. 

“We’re excited to see the details emerge,” he says. “There are so many interesting directions that the field can take right now”—from advancing and applying the new tools to engineering a person’s cells to fight cancer, to reducing waste in food production, producing materials to replace climate-disrupting fossil fuels, developing crops that can thrive in the face of climate change and more.

As far as what’s next for the Smanski lab—even Smanski himself suspects it’s beyond imagination.

“Throughout my career and throughout the time frame of my lab, we let the science take us in the most interesting directions,” he says. “We’re going to keep going where the science leads us.”

Ludmilla Aristilde

Ludmilla Aristilde

Ludmilla Aristilde

Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering and (by courtesy) Chemical and Biological Engineering
Faculty Fellow, Center for Synthetic Biology
University of Minnesota

Multi-Omics Investigation of Carbon Flux Networks in Environmental Bacteria of Biotechnological Relevance


Biological conversion of organic wastes into valuable products represents an important component of a sustainable energy portfolio towards decreasing our reliance on petroleum-based chemical production. Critical to this effort is a fundamental understanding of the metabolic networks that control carbon utilization by environmental bacteria, which provide an array of potential biological platforms to develop new chassis for biotechnological targets.

Dr Aristilde and her team has developed 13C-metabolomics approaches coupled with other omics techniques to unravel the metabolic flux networks in bacterial species isolated from soils, plant roots, and wastewater streams. We combine high-resolution fingerprinting of metabolites and metabolic reactions with genome-based predictions, proteomics analyses, and fluxomics modeling.

This walk will present multi-omics investigations to obtain new insights on the metabolic mechanisms underlying carbon flux routing in Pseudomonas putida, Priestia megaterium (formerly known as Bacillus megaterium), and Comamonas testosteroni. Guiding principles to identify target pathway candidates for metabolic engineering will also be highlighted. 

Sean Elliot

Sean Elliot

Sean Elliot
Boston University

3:30 September 22, 2022
239 Gortner
Reception to follow

Redox Enzymes of Carbon Transformation, through an electrochemical lens


This seminar will use iron-sulfur cluster proteins and enzymes as examples to illustrate how a far-ranging series of redox-active metalloproteins can be examined through an electrochemical lens, to understand the role that specific redox couples play in complex enzymatic mechanisms and biological pathways. The main focus will be the impact and interplay of ferredoxin — small, ubiquitous iron-sulfur cluster redox relays — upon the function of members of the oxo-acid:ferredoxin oxidoreductase (OFOR) enzyme superfamily will be discussed. OFORs are essential players in the carbon cycle, and are considered to be reversible enzymes. However, like hydrogenases and other reversible enzymes, the design features that nature has employed to modulate the ‘bias’ of reactive toward either oxidation or reduction is unclear. And, like hydrogenases, understanding the redox couples of OFORs has proven challenging historically. Here, a combination of electrochemical and spectroscopic studies will be presented as a series of OFOR enzymes from varying biological sources and pathways will be compared and contrasted.

Art Edison

Art Edison

Art Edison 

University of Georgia

September 29, 2022
3:30 PM, 151D Amundson Hall
East Bank

Unique Strengths of NMR Metabolomics:  In vivo metabolism and improved compound identification

Metabolomics is an important component of systems biology research in biology and biomedicine. Two major technologies are widely used in metabolomics research, mass spectrometry and NMR spectroscopy. Both have their own strengths and weaknesses. Recently, LC-MS has gained in popularity, thanks largely to its high sensitivity and ability to detect 10s of thousands of features.

In this talk, I will highlight some of the unique strengths of NMR metabolomics, most notably approaches to study metabolic dynamics in real-time in cells or microorganisms. I will also discuss the difficulty that the entire field faces in confident metabolite identification and will present recent approaches to better combine NMR with LC-MS and computational chemistry to improve compound identification.

Edison, A. S.; Colonna, M.; Gouveia, G. J.; Holderman, N. R.; Judge, M. T.; Shen, X.; Zhang, S. NMR: Unique Strengths That Enhance Modern Metabolomics Research. Anal Chem 2021, 93 (1), 478-499. DOI: 10.1021/acs.analchem.0c04414.

Mission Statement

Mission Statement

Our Mission

The BioTechnology Institute (BTI) provides advanced research, training, and industry interaction in biological process technology, a major area of biotechnology research. The Institute is the central University of Minnesota vehicle for coordinated research in the biological, chemical, and engineering aspects of biotechnology and home to the MnDRIVE Environment Initiative 

BTI’s Mission

(1) Advance and support cross-disciplinary research and innovation at the forefront of biotechnology, (2) Support workforce and professional skills training in biotechnology, (3) Facilitate and develop industry relations in biotechnology, (4) Serve as a central biotechnology resource on campus and (5) Provide biomanufacturing expertise and services to the University, Minnesota, and industry through its BioResource Center (BRC).

BTI Accomplishes its mission by:

(1) bringing together life-science and engineering faculty, researchers, postdocs, and students with shared research interests in biotechnology-related disciplines and
(2) providing administrative support and resources for scientific exchange, networking, collaborative research, and professional skills development and training of its community members.

Core Values

BTI is dedicated to fostering a safe, equitable, inclusive, and collaborative environment for its students, researchers, staff, and faculty. BTI values diversity of backgrounds, disciplines, and experiences as critical factors for achieving its mission of cutting-edge biotechnology research, training, and service.
The following core principles guide BTI:
Collaboration and Teamwork
Innovation and Excellence

Vision and Goals

BTIs goals are:

I. To be a major driver for the creation of a sustainable bioeconomy in MN by promoting and prioritizing cutting-edge fundamental and applied research towards the development of crucial enabling biotechnologies and synthetic biology approaches. BTI drives advances in a broad array of applications, including:

  • (1) carbon capture and conversion,
  • (2) sustainable biomanufacturing of value-added compounds and advanced materials,
  • (3) bioremediation, recycling, and recovery of valuable elements and molecules,
  • (4) discovery and design of therapeutics, diagnostics, materials, and processes
II To become a key player on campus for future MN bioeconomy workforce development by:
(1) offering up-to-date biotechnology training, professional skills development, and industrial networking
opportunities to our students, postdocs, and research staff.
(2) supporting the creation and implementation of relevant biotechnology curricula and skills training activities.
III. To expand BTIs visibility and footprint locally and nationally by:
(1) expanding its industrial relations and connections through its BRC, faculty expertise, and entrepreneurship
(2) effective communication and promotion.
2023 Spring Events

2023 Spring Events

Minneapolis skyline at sunset with roads and trains in the foreground

2022 Fall Eevnts

University of Minnesota- BioTechnology Institute

New fall events will be posted as information becomes available 

Check back in Mid-Septembeer to see all the events for this upcoming fall.

Visual Science

Visual Science

Visual Sicence
Linda Kinkel’s research focuses on the ecology of microbial communities in native prairie and agricultural soils. Kinkel’s work on the ecology and evolutionary biology of streptomycetes and other antibiotic producing bacteria has potential applications in the management of soil-borne plant pathogens.  Her current research, supported by MnDRIVE, will examine the impact of microbial inoculants and carbon inputs on disease suppression and plant productivity in Minnesota’s potato crop.  Learn more about Linda’s research.
Visual Science