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DOE to Pump $375M to Drive Three Systems Bio Biofuel Research Centers

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The US Department of Energy plans to pump as much as $375 million to help create three Bioenergy Research Centers that will use biomolecular technology, including genomic tools, to develop cost-effective biofuels from cellulosic ethanol, the DOE said today.
 
The three centers will be: the Bioenergy Science Center at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn.; the Joint Bioenergy Institute at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif.; and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Each facility will receive $125 million over five years.
 
These university-affiliated labs also will partner with more than 15 other universities, seven national laboratories, and an undisclosed number of corporations, the DOE said.  
 
A major focus of the centers will be understanding how to “reengineer biological processes to develop new, more efficient methods for converting the cellulose in plant material into ethanol or other biofuels that serve as a substitute for gasoline,” the DOE said.
 
Timothy Donohue, who will lead the ethanol study efforts at the Great Lakes center, said the main thrust of the joint project is to use genomics and genome-based computational methods to “remove the bottlenecks” that limit the production of bioenergy, particularly the production of ethanol.
 
Jay Keasling, leader of the JBEI’s Physical Biosciences Division, said his team will focus on enzymatic processes involved in cellulose biology, development, and in bioenergy production. Keasling also said JBEI could pursue microbial metabolomics studies.
 
Donohue also suggested the development of new strains of plants “that will not look like the food you have in the supermarket,” which may be used in bioenegy and biomass production.
 
The centers are expected to begin work in 2008 “subject to the finalization of contract terms and congressional appropriations,” DOE said.
 
Additional information can be found here.