Principal Investigator: Claudia Schmidt-Dannert, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics
Co-Investigators: Maureen Quin, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics; Alptekin Aksan, Mechanical Engineering
Industrial Partner: Minnepura Technologies
Award Type: Seed Grant – Postdoctoral Research Scholar
Problem: Across the state of Minnesota we face a variety of environmental contamination challenges, from heavy metal contaminated mine drainage streams in the north to pesticide and fertilizer compromised soils across our fertile farmlands. Bioremediation can be used to treat contaminated water or soil, but the techniques vary greatly depending on the contaminant and specific remediation needs of each ecosystem.
Solution: Encapsulins are bacterial proteins that have evolved to sequester heavy metals, thereby detoxifying bacterial cells. Encapsulin-based “Biohubs” encased in silica for preservation will be developed as a stable, adaptable, and reusable bioremediation material that can be modified with high specificity for a range of applications and contaminants.
Impact: Encapsulin-based Biohubs will be an economically feasible bioremediation solution because they use inexpensive silica as an encasement and can be manufactured using pre-existing microbial production systems. The high adaptability and stability of Biohubs provide numerous bioremediation applications for this biomaterial, including heavy metal sequestration and organic pollutant detoxification.