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DOE, USDA Granting More Than $10M to Ten Biofuel Genomics Studies

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The US Departments of Energy and Agriculture today said that they will provide nearly $11 million over three years to fund 10 genomics research programs that can help develop bioenergy feedstocks for use in cellulosic biofuels.
Under the joint Plant Feedstock Genomics for Bioenergy program, the DOE will contribute $8.8 million from its Office of Biological and Environmental Research, and the USDA will provide $2 million through its Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service.
“Developing cost-effective means of producing cellulosic biofuels on a national scale poses major scientific challenges — these grants will help in developing the type of transformational breakthroughs needed in basic science to make this happen,” DOE Under Secretary for Science Raymond Orbach said in a statement.
The genomics program began in 2006 and it aims to establish a scientific foundation for using woody plant tissue for bioenergy or biofuels.
“These grants will broaden the sources of energy from many crops as well as improve the efficiency and options among renewable fuels,” said Gale Buchanan, USDA’s under secretary for Research, Education and Economics.
Here is a list of the 2008 awards that the DOE/USDA joint Plant Feedstock Genomics for Bioenergy program posted today:  
  • The University of Georgia will receive $1.3 million to lead a study to generate genomic and genetic tools for foxtail millet that will complement the DOE Joint Genome Institute’s foxtail genome sequencing project.
  •  Pennsylvania State University will get $587,000 to study the regulation of ferulic acid in cell walls of the Brachypodium distachyon grass species and to generate a mutant strain that could be used in further studies of the potential bioenergy crop.
  •  Michigan State University will use $540,000 to provide computational tools for data-mining of genome sequence and annotation, and functional genomic datasets for biofuel feedstock species.
  •  Purdue University will receive $1.2 million to conduct bioinformatics analysis on cell walls in grass species, maize, annotation of switchgrass orthologs, and to generate mutants in cell wall-related genes.
  •  The Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research will get $882,000 to identify genes that control arbuscular mychorrhizal symbiosis, and factors that regulate gene function and the acquisition of nutrients such as phosphate. The goal is to understand plant-fungal partnerships and how they help maintain the terrestrial soil environment.
  •  The University of Massachusetts will get $1.2 million to identify regulatory genomic binding sites using reverse and forward genetic approaches in Brachypodium and Arabidopsis.
  •  Colorado State University will use $1.5 million to integrate a breeding and genomics platform to identify biomass traits in rice, for translation to second generation bioenergy grasses.
  •  The University of Georgia received $1.2 million to develop genomic resources for woody biomass trait identification in a hybrid sunflower species that is extremely drought tolerant.
  •  Oregon State University has received $1.2 million to develop an Affymetrix genome tiling array that will be used to generate an expression atlas representing major developmental stages or stress responses in Brachypodium.
  •  Oregon State University will receive $1.2 million to study how epigenetics are involved in the regulation and development and dormancy in poplar and other woody species. The researchers will characterize changes in DNA methylation patterns on specific tissues.

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