"Extremophiles as Cell Factories" is a project funded under the EU's specific RTD programme in the field of Biotechnology. The project began in December 1996 and will last for three years, with a total budget of ECU 7 million. It involves 59 European institutions including 13 companies. "Extremophiles" are bacteria from extreme environments, such as hot springs or cold Polar seas, in salt lakes or in alkaline soils. The project aims to optimize the growth of selected extremophiles, which have tremendous potential in biotechnology because of their ability to grow under such extreme conditions and to produce unique stable products with high technological value. The project is being conducted in an interdisciplinary manner in order to tailor enzymes for specific applications. Three separate disciplines are covered within the project: - Genetic engineering; - Product engineering for enzymes, proteins and organic compounds; - Cellular factories and fermentation. The main results of the project so far include: - Identification of substances as candidates for the construction of expression and shuttle vectors, which can be used to transport genetic information from one species to another; - The sequencing of genes for the production of DNA polymerases which form the basis for genetic techniques; - The development of a polymerase chain reaction which can be used to copy DNA strains to huge amounts of identical genetic material; - Cloning of an extremophile's enzyme responsible for the degradation of certain chemical bindings in starch into Escherichia coli, which may be used for the industrial bioconversion of starch into high glucose and fructose syrups; - Using a special pilot bioreactor for the study of hyperthermophilic organisms, which permits the growth of organisms at temperatures in excess of 100 degrees.