A Molecular Rheostat Design that Maintains ATP Levels Needed to Drive Cell-Free Synthetic Biochemistry Systems

Tech ID: 27581 / UC Case 2017-391-0


UCLA researchers in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry have developed a system for regulation of cofactors in cell free biochemical production.


Plant and microbe based production of chemicals offers several advantages over petroleum-based methods such as a lower carbon footprint, use of sustainable energy source and in some cases biodegradability. However, the low yields and productivity, in part due to the complexity of living systems has limited their industrial applications. Additionally, the production methods are expensive and do not allow for modulation as an in vitro method would. Therefore, an optimized system with high yield is desired.


UCLA researchers have developed a cell-free approach for production of chemicals. Their method involves combining different metabolic pathways in vitro. They have optimized the method to include a ‘molecular rheostat’ that regulates and recycles ATP, an expensive cofactor utilized in nearly all bio-based chemical production methods. They have utilized the rheostat for production of isobutanol from glucose and obtained a two-fold increase with yields of up to 24 g/L.


  • Production of isobutanol
  • Production of bioplastics
  • Production of biofuels


  • Can be scaled up for industrial applications
  • Regulates and recycles ATP
  • 91% yield obtained
  • Completely in vitro approach

State Of Development

Proof of concept system designed and tested for isobutanol production

Patent Status

Country Type Number Dated Case
Australia Issued Patent 2017345324 06/08/2023 2017-391
Singapore Issued Patent 11201903429Q 03/31/2023 2017-391
Japan Issued Patent 7206202 01/06/2023 2017-391
European Patent Office Published Application 3529365 08/28/2019 2017-391
India Published Application 201917019483 A. 08/09/2019 2017-391

Additional Patents Pending


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  • Bowie, James U.

Other Information


Bioplastic, metabolic engineering, synthetic engineering, cell-free production, biofuels

Categorized As