Two Phase Consortium for Production of Metabolites from a Cyanobacteria/Bacteria Mixed Consortium


Executive Summary


Biobased plastics and chemicals offer an alternative solution to products traditionally made from fossil fuel sources. Bioindustries utilize heterotrophic organisms to convert carbohydrate-rich feedstocks like sugarcane, sugar beets, and corn into value-added compounds (e.g. nutritional supplements, pharmaceuticals, etc.). Because these feedstocks often require premium land, water, and costly transportation, industry has looked for alternatives to food crop derived sugars. Cyanobacterial autotrophic fermentation systems are regarded as the most efficient platform and most promising route for production of carbon substrates such as oils and sugars, but are hindered with separation and cell density issues that limit cost-effectiveness. Cyanobacteria are also limited in the products that they may produce. MSU researchers have developed a technology to mitigate many of the costs and limitations with a “one-pot” reaction of co-existing microbes that convert cyanobacterial-derived sucrose into higher-value compounds, and the production organisms are reusable after each harvest.


Description of Technology


This MSU technology is a flexible autotroph/heterotroph consortia platform for the creation of valuable biological metabolites from solar energy. The synthetic co-culture utilizes a modular design in which cyanobacteria are contained in hydrogel beads. The cyanobacteria fix atmospheric CO2 and secret sucrose. The engineered strain of cyanobacteria exports up to 85% of the sucrose it makes, and its sucrose production rate exceeds that of sugarcane. The second organism is a heterotroph (e.g. E. coli, B. subtilis, or S. cervisiae) that uses the sucrose to form an end-product like polyhydroxybuturate (PHB) or an industrial enzyme. The use of cyanobacteria eliminates the need for any external carbohydrate feedstocks, and the novel hydrogel bead technology allows easy separation and re-use of the cyanobacteria after each harvest, greatly reducing costs. The media and growth conditions have also been optimized to allow the co-cultures to persist over an extended time.


Key Benefits

  • Flexible modular platform allows variety of end-products tailored to specific need
  • Co-cultures stable over time (up to months)
  • No external carbohydrate feedstock necessary
  • Consistent and continuous production (4x more productive, 20x faster than cyanobacteria alone)
  • Novel hydrogel bead technology allows for easy end-product extraction and re-use of culture
  • Inexpensive to maintain



  • Synthetic cross-feeding consortia for photoproduction of:
    • Biochemicals, metabolites, and industrial enzymes
    • Pigments, vitamins, etc.


Patent Status: 


United States patent application pending


Licensing Rights Available:


Full licensing rights available




Daniel Ducat, Taylor Weiss, Eric Young


Tech ID:




Patent Information:

For Information, Contact:

Thomas Herlache
Assistant Director
Michigan State University