Research Overview

glove boxBioZone researchers are leveraging the tremendous advancements in genomic sciences and their unique complementary expertise to tackle a wide range of research topics at the intersection of biology and engineering.

Please click on the links below for more detail on specific research themes. These research topics include: sustainable production of biofuels and bioproducts, bioremedation of contaminates in ground water, wastewater treatment, anaerobic digestion, cellular and protein engineering for health, food, nutraceuticals, and chemical manufacturing.

For more information on these areas can be found below.

Sustainable Production of Bioproducts and Biofuels

BZ_enzyme3Synthesis of proteins from genome and metagenome sequences, high throughput screening of their potential enzymatic activities, biochemical characterization of novel enzymes, crystallization and structural analysis using X-ray crystallography. Characterization of hydrolytic enzymes and enzymes for biopolymer synthesis.

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BZ_networkModeling and analysis across multiple time and length scales with a focus on metabolic and gene regulatory networks.

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BZ_algae1Maximizing growth of microalgae from carbon dioxide, sunlight and wastewater for production of biofuels and biochemicals.

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shutterstock_166918988 [Converted]Bioproducts, i.e., products manufactured from renewable resources or using biological production systems, are the foundation of the new global low carbon bioeconomy. This bioeconomy will support many sectors including commodity chemicals and materials, health, agriculture, and energy. BioZone researchers are developing biotechnologies (enzymes and cells) that can convert renewable feedstocks such as agricultural waste into chemicals, bioplastics, and other products.

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cp-boreal-forestBiological treatment systems for wastewater and air emissions. Biological conversion of wastes from forestry and other industries into renewable fuels, value added chemicals, and renewable materials.  Investigation of enzymes that degrade lignocellulose and their expression in plants.  Enzymatic hydrolysis of starchy and lignocellulosic substrates.

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BZ_100Ltanks(1)Strategies for reactor scale-up, processing of high consistency slurries, viscosity and inhibitor management.

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BZ_LCA2Comprehensive evaluation of capital and operating costs of biofuel production. Economic impact of high value co-products. Greenhouse gas and critical air contaminants impacts of biofuels, bioenergy and bioproducts. Bioenergy policy.

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Bioremediation and Wastewater Treatment

PCE to ethene(2)Biological reductive dechlorination of chlorinated solvents, including chlorinated ethenes, ethanes, and methanes. Zero-valent iron reduction of chlorinated ethenes. Biodegradation of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes under various electron-accepting conditions. Biological reduction of metals. Characterization of anaerobic mixed microbial communities and their enzymatic processes, including genomic and metagenomic analyses, metabolic network reconstruction and modeling.

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Molecular biological tools for reductive dechlorination, metal reduction, wastewater treatment granules and flocs.  Laboratory techniques 445008b-i1.0include polymerase chain reaction (PCR), quantitative PCR, reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR), microarrays, next-generation sequencing, protein gel electrophoresis, and native protein polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE).

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indexAnaerobic digestion of organic waste has tremendous potential to address the economic and the environmental pressures facing most industries and municipalities. While anaerobic digestion is widely applied already in certain sectors, there is keen interest to expand its use to new waste streams, for example in the pulp and paper industry. Using a combination of pre-treatment methods and reactor configurations, combined with new molecular and analytical tools to gain mechanistic information on anaerobic processes, we are investigating alternative approaches to recover energy from waste liquid and solid streams.

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Cellular and Protein Engineering for Advanced Health Solutions

bacteria_on_agar_plateAntibiotic resistance is a serious and growing health concern. Due to misuse or overuse of antibiotics, bacteria have evolved various mechanisms to reduce the effectiveness of these drugs. Many clinically-relevant species, including the ESKAPE pathogens Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterobacter species contain either plasmids or chromosomal genes that produce enzymes with activities rendering antibiotics inactive.

The Structural Microbiology Lab is carrying out structure-function and inhibition studies of enzymes conferring antibiotic resistance to the glycopeptide drug of last resort vancomycin, aminoglycosides, streptogramin compounds and other antibiotics. We use X-ray crystallography as our primary tool to produce detailed insights into molecular structure of these enzymes and use this information to guide design of potent inhibitory compounds that can be used as antibiotic adjuvants for combined antimicrobial therapy.

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BZ_mam_cells2Microfabrication tools for biology, developmental biology, systems biology, cell organization and self-assembly, cell migration, patterned gene delivery, and modelling tissue organization mechanisms.

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HE_salt-thinkstock_s4x3_lgMicroencapsulation of food ingredients and nutraceuticals for controlled release of micronutrients in food fortification – both for international development, and for the North American food industry.

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