Travis Bayer

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Imperial College London
Bayer, Travis

Travis Bayer is a member of the faculty at Imperial College London where his group works in metabolic engineering, biocatalysis, and synthetic biology. The Bayer group is interested in understanding the evolution of metabolism and genetic regulation, interfacing living and non-living systems, and using biological technologies to enhance global health and sustainability.

Travis received a BS in Molecular Biology from the University of Texas at Austin, a PhD in Biochemistry from the California Institute of Technology, and was a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, San Francisco before starting his group at Imperial in 2010. Travis has strong industrial collaborations and sits on the scientific advisory boards of synthetic biology startup companies.

Thu July 11 | 11:30 - 1:00 | Plenary Session
ABSTRACT: Rewiring metabolism to improve crop yield in Africa

Microbial fermentation has been exploited by humans for millenia for the production of food, fuel, and chemicals. Despite intense research efforts, the spectrum of compounds produced in this way is still limited to either naturally occuring fermentative pathways or shows low yields due to genetic regulatory contraints imposed by the host strain. I will discuss our efforts in designing synthetic metabolism and rewiring regulatory architectures in microbial cells to allow high yield production of compounds. As an exemplar, we have engineered a synthetic pathway to the plant hormone strigolactone as a step towards improving crop yield. The parasitic weed species of the Striga genus are among the major biotic stresses on crop yield in Africa, affecting staples such as maize, sorghum, rice, and cowpea. Striga seeds lie dormant in soil until they detect the plant hormone strigolactone, which induces seed germination and attachment of the weed to host roots. The application of strigolactone to farmland before planting can induce ‘suicidal’ germination of Striga seeds. However, the high cost of chemical synthesis of strigolactone has precluded the use of this strategy in the field. The low cost, microbial production of strigolactone can be used in a program of Striga eradication from arable land in Africa.