This week the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $40 million in funding for 31 projects aiming to advance research in the development of microbes as practical platforms for the production of bio-fuels and other bio-products . The projects from across universities and colleges in the USA, were chosen by competitive peer review and the funding will last three years.
“In coming years, the revolution in biotechnology and bio-based production methods are expected to transform the face of industry,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry ( @SecretaryPerry ) . “These projects will help ensure that America continues to lead the way in developing the knowledge and expertise needed to capitalize on the many new opportunities of the emerging bio-energy fields.”
Among the titles of the projects included for funding are:
- Dissecting the Division of Labor in Microbial Consortia for the Production of Biofuels and Chemicals
- High-throughput chemical imaging for optimizing biofuel synthesis using synthetic biology
- Novel Microbial Routes to Synthesize Industrially Significant Precursor Compounds
- Creating multifunctional synthetic lichen platforms for sustainable biosynthesis of biofuel precursors
- Understanding Plant Signaling via Innovations in Probe Delivery and Imaging
The projects have been chosen to further the ongoing revolution in biology and biotechnology, and will aim to increase our understanding of how nature’s sophisticated production capabilities at the cellular level can be harnessed to produce sustainable, clean, and efficient fuel as well as drive other industrial production processes.
Over the past decade, DOE-supported scientists have identified and modified a wide range of microbial organisms to be production workhorses, transforming microbes into effective platforms for the generation of fuels and other useful precursor chemicals from renewable plant feedstocks.
Using today’s most advanced techniques of genomics-based systems biology, these projects seek both to improve the production capabilities of already identified organisms and to identify new organisms as potential production platforms. They will modify the organisms to maximize their effectiveness as producers.
Organisms under study range from yeast and fungi to cyanobacteria and rare thermophilic microbes that thrive at extremely high temperatures. Products to be produced range from biofuels to alcohols to other valuable precursor chemicals with multiple possible downstream applications.
In addition to the projects focused on specific microorganisms, approximately one third of the projects are focused on developing and improving the essential imaging tools for this work of characterizing and modifying organisms on a microscopic scale. Several of the projects also seek to enhance capabilities for real-time “in situ” imaging. This means observing in real-time how nature’s microscopic processes unfold in detail at the cellular level.
Projects were chosen by competitive peer review under two separate DOE Funding Opportunity Announcements, one for Systems Biology of Bioenergy-Relevant Microbes and another for Bioimaging Research for Bioenergy, both sponsored by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research within the Department’s Office of Science.
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