The UCSC undergraduate team for the iGEM synthetic biology competition have put up a crowd-funding web site to try to raise the money they need for their contest entry.
Their design project is to engineer a bacterial strain for cellulosic alcohol production—not ethanol, but butanol, whose energy density is more compatible with the existing gasoline infrastructure and that does not absorb so much water. Conventional ways of creating butanol are too expensive, so recombinant bacteria are a promising approach. Using cellulose as a feedstock avoids competing with food production, as waste paper and other non-food sources can be used.
They are not trying to do everything at once—they are working this summer on getting butanol production from glucose engineered into Haloferax volcanii, a halophile that their mentor has worked with a fair amount. I’m not sure what their reasoning is for using a halophile—perhaps they just wanted to work in an archeon, and H. volcanii is one of the best-established model organisms for Archaea.
Their mentor for the project is donating his time, so all the costs are unavoidable reagent, equipment time, or registration fee costs.
The team description (including membership) is at http://igem.org/Team.cgi?id=1560, and the wiki where you can follow their progress is at http://2014.igem.org/Team:UCSC (though they’ve nothing there yet but an introduction to the project).
I gave a token amount, and I urge others to do so also (or more if you are feeling generous). They’re currently about halfway to their goal.