Tim Gardner of Boston University is researching how networks of genes regulate reactions within bacteria. His team is attempting to engineer bacteria to be more efficient at converting a wide range of nutrients into energy. Rather than applying the traditional 'synthetic biology' approach of building from scratch, Tim is working with existing cell machinery that has been optimized through evolution and tweak the components as well as the interactions between components. A key innovation is applying a systems or network approach, rather than 'trial and error'.
Although the current approach requires either fine-tuning of nutrients or genetic engineering, a more complete understanding of the regulatory and metabolic pathways of bacteria may lead to artificial energy transformation devices.