Cornell University Genetically Engineered Machines


During the growth phase of Ecovative’s biomaterial production, molds and other fungi could contaminate and outcompete the growing mycelium. These fungi compete in the well documented biological phenomenon called standoff where opposing fungal species will secrete enzymes designed to halt to growth of the competitor. During our collaborations with Ecovative we identified various Aspergillus species (especially Asp. fumigatus, Asp. niger, and Asp. brasiliensis) as likely and potentially harmful contaminants. To help reduce the harmful effects of these contaminants on the growing mycelium, we decided to pursue expressing antifungals in the growing mycelium to combat the Aspergillus species.

Expressing an antifungal within a fungus seems rather risky, as it could very well harm the wanted mycelium as much or more than the contaminants. In our research, however, we managed to find an antifungal protein from the bacteria Streptomyces tendae that has specific activity toward Aspergillus species and is benign to many other fungi tested [1]. This antifungal protein will contribute to the standoff phenomenon and should give our mycelium a competitive advantage over its contaminants.