LS9 leads the newly emerging pack of companies that, with DNA-engineering technology, are custom-creating potentially lucrative species of bacteria that can manufacture fuel on command. LS9 is staking its prospects not on inventing an entirely new biological pathway, but on exploiting an existing one. Bacteria naturally turn the sugars they consume into fatty acids, which are later converted to lipids for storage. By a stroke of genetic serendipity, fatty acids are only a few molecular linkages removed from diesel fuel, so it has been fairly simple for LS9 scientists to tweak existing bacteria to yield new, diesel-producing strains. It is estimated that large quantities of the finished fuel will be market-ready in three to five years. The company is also perfecting a bacterium that produces crude oil, which could be sent to refineries and turned into any imaginable petroleum product, from gasoline to Vaseline.
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