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NC State Lands Stimulus Biofuel NSF Grant

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Science Foundation has given a $2 million grant to North Carolina State University to conduct genomics research on an algae that may be used as biofuel, NCSU said today.

Using funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, NCSU will study strains of Dunaliella, a marine algae that grows in brackish or salty water and if used for biofuel would not compete with freshwater resources.

"We're looking at microscopic marine algae that produce fatty acids and do not have a cell wall," Bill Roberts, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NCSU and primary investigator on the grant, said in a statement. "We plan to genetically modify the algae so that they will continuously produce these fatty acids, which we can then continually harvest.

"We also plan to genetically modify the algae to produce fatty acids of a specific length, to expedite the conversion of the fatty acids into fuels that can be used by our existing transportation infrastructure," Roberts added.

The research studies will begin with a mass culture of the best oil-producing strains of Dunaliella. The researchers then will map the Dunaliella genome to identify genes responsible for regulating the amount and quality of fatty acids it produces. Afterward, they will replace those genes with genes from other organisms in order to produce the desired fatty acids and to change regulatory mechanisms within the organisms.

The technologies required to grow the algae and to extract the fatty acids from it also will require continued development.

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