Vast quantities of medicines and renewable fuels could be produced by algae using a new gene-editing technique, according to a new study.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh sought to improve the efficiency of gene-editing to increase yields of products currently made using algae, including some food supplements. The advance could also enable algae to make new products, such as medicines, and boost the use of algae as a renewable fuel.

Using the CRISPR gene-editing technique, the researchers modified the algae to increase efficiency 500-fold compared to previous used techniques.

The discovery could unleash the potential of the global algae industry, projected to be worth $1.1 billion by 2024.

“Our findings mark a key advance in large-scale algal genome engineering,” lead researcher Dr Attila Molnar said.

“Our technique is applicable to a wide range of species, and could pave the way for the development of designer algae, which has many biotechnology applications.”