Fiona K. davies
Assistant research PROFESSOR
BS - University of Otago, New Zealand
PhD - University of Otago, New Zealand
Postdoctoral training – University of California, Berkeley, USA
Postdoctoral training – Colorado School of Mines, USA
Chemical products derived from fossil fuels have enabled our energy-intensive 21st century lifestyle. To continue enjoying this lifestyle in a sustainable manner, innovative new technologies will be required to reduce our dependence on diminishing fuel reserves. Advances in metabolic engineering and synthetic biology have allowed us to harness microbial cells as catalytic factories for the renewable production of commodity chemicals that have traditionally been derived from fossil fuels. Of the emerging microbial technologies, the use of photosynthetic microbes is a particularly attractive production platform because it enables the direct conversion of solar energy into stored chemical energy.
Dr Davies’ research interests lie in the use of cyanobacteria as a photosynthetic platform for chemical synthesis. She is particularly interested in engineering the fast-growing, model cyanobacterium Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002 for the production of a class of chemicals known as terpenoids, which have received considerable attention for use as drop-in biofuels, and for applications in the bioplastics and flavor/fragrance industries. Currently this research is focused on engineering Synechococcus to produce terpenoid hydrocarbons such as limonene (C10H16) and bisabolene (C15H24), and using metabolic engineering principles to divert metabolic flux towards terpenoid precursors for higher yields. Central to this research objective is gaining an understanding of how carbon partitioning among major metabolic sinks is regulated, and how perturbations in carbon flux and partitioning impact photosynthesis. The renewable synthesis of terpenoids through the targeted bioengineering of photosynthetic microbes contributes to biotechnological advances that may help us to meet the world’s growing energy demands.