Building better enzymes faster

One of Phytola’s goals is to increase seed oil content in canola using a variety of biotechnological approaches. However, a barrier is the length of time required to identify potential gene candidates that could be used to increase oil content in plants.

Dr. Rodrigo Siloto, a senior research associate with Phytola, has taken major strides toward accelerating this process with a novel High-Throughput Technology. Rodrigo is a co-inventor on the patent for this technology, which has undergone many improvements and attracted international interest, including Cargill as an industry partner.

Traditional plant breeding approaches rely on the continual selection of favorable traits over multiple generations, which can take years to achieve in the field. Rodrigo has developed a technology that fast-forwards this process, allowing Phytola to rapidly generate and screen thousands of variants of oil-synthesizing enzymes, some of which support higher levels of oil accumulation in a model system.

Instead of taking years to painstakingly test all of these candidates in the greenhouse or field, the High-Throughput Technology allows Rodrigo to narrow down the best candidates in a matter of hours, without ever leaving the lab. The most promising candidates can then be tested in plant and are supported by a wealth of preliminary data to guide the selection process.

The current focus of the technology is on increasing seed oil content. Phytola intends to expand the use of the High-Throughput Technology to advance progress on several other related projects. Rodrigo says, “Our ability to evolve genes in the lab is changing the way we do plant biotechnology.”

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