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DOE s Genomes: GTL to Focus on Systems Bio for Energy, Remediation Research

NEW YORK, Oct. 4 (GenomeWeb News) - The US Department of Energy's Genomes: GTL program said it believes systems biology can be applied to microbial research in an effort to attain "cleaner and more secure energy resources, [remediate] toxic wastes and [understand] the natural roles microbes play in the global climate," the DOE said today


"Much as the Human Genome Project stimulated the growth of a biomedical biotechnology industry, the research laid out in this roadmap will spur growth in a new industrial biotechnology sector," Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman said in a statement about the plan, called Genomics: GTL Roadmap: Systems Biology for Energy and Environment. The report can be seen here.


The DOE suggests microbial enzymes could be used to "improve the manufacture of ethanol from cellulose by replacing the inefficient and expensive processes used today. They could enable smaller-scale and more cost-effective and energy-efficient distributed processing plants that could make ethanol cost competitive with oil-based gasoline. Thousands of microbial species have biochemical processes that are of potential use for this and other applications," the DOE said.


To that end, the goal of GTL, formerly called Genomes to Life, is to understand how "the static information in the DNA of microbial genomes drives the integrated, intricate and dynamic processes of life," the DOE said in its statement. "To achieve this level of understanding requires moving beyond explorations of single genes and proteins to a systems-wide approach. These studies demand explorations of microbes at the molecular, whole cell and community levels."


GTL said "new instruments and advanced computational methods" will be required for this kind of research. Its program has three phases. First, "key proof of principle experiments" on "complex energy and environmental systems" will be performed and "new" high-throughput tools and computing techniques will be developed. These will be "used for science and scaled up in user research facilities."


Next, GTL will apply these tools to help it "understand biological processes," "develop concepts for industrial application to energy and environmental problems." and "understand the interactions between global biological processes and climate."


Finally, GTL will be able to move these knew developments and observations into "new processes and products to help meet critical national energy and environmental needs," the DOE said.

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