The international project, known as Sc 2.0, will build a synthetic genome for the bakers yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) - which when completed will be the first time scientists have built the whole genome of a eukaryotic organism. From this point the team will then be able to design different strains of the synthetic yeast that contain genes to make commercially valuable products such as chemicals, vaccines and biofuels.
Teams at universities around the world - including the UK, USA, China and India - are responsible for building each of the 16 individual yeast chromosomes that together comprise the complete genome.
“Sc 2.0, once completed, will provide unparalleled opportunities for asking profound questions about biology in new and interesting ways," said Professor Jef Boeke of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine - coordinator of the project.
Professor Keith Waldron from the UK Institute of Food Research (IFR) noted that the research could help to find novel ways of turning waste streams from the food chain into valuable chemicals.
“This initiative provides a focus for yeast research and its application to solving major challenges of food security and reducing reliance on high carbon fuels,” said the IFR expert.
“The synthetic yeast has potential applications in rapid evolution and high throughput strain selection. It opens up new possibilities to design strains, based on our growing knowledge of yeast genetics."
"Using new yeasts to reduce food waste, generate valuable chemicals and produce sustainable fuels helps overall food security and support the agri-food chain," suggested Waldron.