Talk of metabolism modification might instinctively evoke suspicion. The idea of inhibiting, boosting or otherwise altering natural biological processes conjures up science fiction stories of the ominous consequences of meddling in nature’s ways.

In reality, however, metabolic engineers like Arul Mozhy Varman are working to help us live more safely and productively by enhancing nature’s abilities. His research aspirations focus on a vision for breakthroughs in engineering microbial metabolisms to bring us an array of benefits, particularly in the production of bulk chemicals, fuels and pharmaceuticals.

When metabolic engineers talk about microbial cells, they are thinking more precisely of what they call microbial cell factories, in which thousands of chemical reactions are occurring, Varman says. What he and others in his area of expertise do is find ways to optimize genetic and related metabolic processes in these microbial cell factories to increase their production of various chemicals.

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