Research Groups

Metabolic Engineering

Research Interests and Description

Group Leader: Shashi Kumar, PhD

Group Members

Link to DBT-ICGEB Bioenergy Centre

Research Interests

Synthetic Biology and Metabolic Engineering of plants for terpenoid drugs biosynthesis and biofuels from algae; chloroplast transformation, GMOs, Biosafety, Hypoallergenic latex, Antimalarial drug, Algae, Bioenergy, Biorefinery, Biodiesel, Bioremediation of wastewater

Description of Research

Genome Editing
Using genome editing tools, we develop super strains for producing the desired products. The ribulose bisphosphate carboxylase-oxygenase (Rubisco) of aquatic photosynthetic microalgae faces several challenges in acquiring CO2 from the aquatic environment. The diffusion of CO2 is approximately 10,000 times slower in water than in air, hence contributing to the reduced efficiency of carbon dioxide fixation in photoautotrophs from aquatic ecosystems. To enhance the supply of CO2 to Rubisco, we have engineered an industrial marine strain, Parachlorella kessleri-I (I stand for ICGEB) with the heterogeneous inorganic carbon transporters LCIA and LCIB, which has considerably enhanced the photosynthetic activity of Rubisco and resulted higher lipid content and four-fold higher biomass productivity compared to wildtype.

Wastewater remediation and hydrothermal liquefaction of algae biomass for biorefineries
The human societies produce about 3 billion tons of domestic wastewater every year and about 4400 million cubic meters by Delhi. We have optimized the growth of different algal strains along other micrograms that play a crucial role remediating the wastewater while producing the biomass for bioenergy/biorefineries. Municipal wastewater poses a great threat to the environment and human health by carrying significant loads of nutrients and pathogens. It pollutes rivers, lakes and natural reservoirs and cause eutrophication and pathogen-mediated diseases. On the contrary, the high nutrient content of wastewater makes is ideal for algae growth. Thus, consortium of algal strains is useful for the remediation of wastewater and the incurred algae biomass can be process via hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) to make it suitable for the existing refineries to produce fuels.

Terpenoid drugs biosynthesis
The anticancer drug taxol and antimalarial drug artemisinin, cannabinoids, curcuminoids, ginkgolides, salvinorin-A, menthol etc. are some of the popular terpenoid-based drugs. Artemisinin treats malaria faster than any other drug available in the market. However, low yield of artemisinin from the native plant (Artemisia annua), in addition high cost of its extraction and purification has made the drug unaffordable to the poor even after the subsidy provided by the Indian government. Using the synthetic biology approach, we have produced this drug at clinically meaningful levels. The rationalized expression of biosynthetic pathway’s genes in three different organelles of tobacco plant has enabled us to attain the maximum yield of antimalarial drug, artemisinin. Oral feeding of whole intact plant cells (bioencapsulating the artemisinin) has reduced the parasitemia levels more effectively in challenged mice in comparison to commercial artemisinin. Now our focus is to make this drug affordable and available to more people using edible plants (Ref: DOI: 10.1016/j.molp.2016.09.013).

Metabolic engineering for hypoallergenic latex
We have metabolically engineered the guayule (Parthenium argentatum) to enhance the yield of natural rubber by removing the monomer substrate limitation. Guayule is an important commercial crop of the rubber industry. Its rubber is superior from Hevea brasiliensis rubber due to its hypoallergenic properties (See patent, US 20140325699). “While Hevea brasiliensis can flourish in the dense tropical rainforest conditions, guayule can be home for the Thar desert of India,” see an interview to Tyre Asia “Guayule can turn Thar desert green”.

Recent Publications

Kunrunmi, O., Adesalu, T., Kumar, S. 2017. Genetic identification of new microalgal species from Epe Lagoon of West Africa accumulating high lipids. Algal Research 22, 68-78 Link to article

Singh, A.K., Sharma, N., Farooqi, H., Abdin, M.Z., Mock, T., Kumar, S. 2017. Phycoremediation of municipal wastewater by microalgae to produce biofuel. Int J Phytoremediation 19, 1-8 PubMed link

Malhotra, K., Subramaniyan, M., Rawat, K., Kalamuddin, M., Qureshi, M.F., Malhotra, P., Mohmmed, A., Cornish, K., Daniell, H., Kumar, S. 2016. Compartmentalized metabolic engineering for artemisinin biosynthesis and effective malaria treatment by oral delivery of plant cells. Mol Plant, 9, 1464-1477 PubMed link

Singh, D., Kumar, S., Daniell, H. 2016. Expression of Beta-glucosidase increases trichome density and artemisinin content in transgenic Artemisia annua plants. Plant Biotechnol J 16, 1034-1045 PubMed link

Ahmad, I., Sharma, A., Daniell, H., Kumar, S.2015. Altered Lipid Composition and Enhanced Lipid Production in Microalga by Introduction of Brassica Diacylglycerol Acyltransferase 2. Plant Biotechnol J, 13, 540-550 PubMed link

Shao, M., Kumar, S., Thomson, J.G. 2014. Precise excision of plastid DNA by the large serine recombinase Bxb1. Plant Biotech J 12, 322-329 PubMed link


Kang. B., McMahan. C.M., Whalen. M.C., Dong, N., Kumar, S. 2016. Engineering rubber production in plants. US 20140325699, WO/2014/152747.

ICGEB New Delhi

ICGEB Campus
Aruna Asaf Ali Marg
110 067 New Delhi
Tel: +91-11-26741358/1007
Fax: +91-11-26742316




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