Explain the deal between BP and Synthetic Genomics Inc.?
The initial phase of the BP/Synthetic Genomics deal will focus on identifying and describing the naturally occurring organisms and their natural biological functions that thrive in subsurface hydrocarbon formations, including petroleum, natural gas, coal, bitumen, shale, and carbon dioxide. Synthetic Genomics will utilize unique technologies including environmental genomics and multiplex microbial culturing techniques. The overarching goal is to explore and understand subsurface microbial processes. Such an understanding would enable hydrocarbon quality enhancement or increased production. BP and Synthetic Genomics will seek to jointly commercialize the bioconversion of subsurface hydrocarbons into cleaner energy products.
The second phase of the BP/Synthetic Genomics program will be a series of field pilot studies of the most promising bioconversion approaches.
What is the timeline for this deal?
We expect that the first two phases of R&D will be completed in three and a half years. The success of the pilot field studies will lead to the third phase of R&D that will encompass the commercialization of the relevant technologies.
How much is BP's investment in Synthetic Genomics? What percentage of shares will BP hold?
Financial details are not being disclosed.
What is environmental DNA sequencing and analysis and how will it be used in the BP/Synthetic Genomics deal?
Environmental DNA sequencing enables scientists to study, with great precision, the uncharacterized microbial communities populating virtually every niche of the biosphere. These genomic-driven molecular tools are providing new ways to evaluate microbial metabolism, ecology, evolution, biochemistry, physiology and biodiversity. Efficient DNA sequencing is a complex process that requires meticulous preparation and organization as well as cutting-edge equipment, from template robots to high-throughput sequencing machines. Synthetic Genomics supports sequencing at the J. Craig Venter Institute's Joint Technology Center, one of the world's leading DNA sequencing organizations. Synthetic Genomics is employing a suite of novel and public domain computational tools to help identify and annotate genes, assemble sequences and compare closely related genomes. The bioinformatics team collects, classifies, stores and analyzes all information that can be harnessed to produce clean and renewable energy.
BP and Synthetic Genomics will work together to identify and sample appropriate subsurface hydrocarbon substrates. Synthetic Genomics will recover DNA from the acquired samples and apply unique environmental sequencing methods. The DNA sequence will provide a vast information base on complex microbial communities independent of culturing microbes.
What is microbial cell culturing and how will it be used in the BP/Synthetic Genomics deal?
Microbial cell culturing is the scientific method of growing various microorganisms in the laboratory. It is estimated that less than one percent of the microbial biodiversity has been cultivated in the laboratory. To gain access to novel uncultured microorganisms, Synthetic Genomics has developed innovative microbial cultivation technologies and monitoring approaches.
Synthetic Genomics will apply multiplex culturing methods to the BP/Synthetic Genomics samples. The combination of environmental sequencing and microbial cell culturing will enable the fundamental understanding of the dominant metabolic and chemical processes taking place in the subsurface hydrocarbon environments.
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