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In New Roadmap, DOE Says Its Genomics: GTL Program Will Help Develop Cellulose-Based Ethanol Products

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) - The US Department of Energy's Genomics: GTL program will play a role in a new DOE program to develop cellulose-based ethanol, the DOE said today.
In a 200-page roadmap, published today, the DOE identified areas of research to make cellulose-based ethanol production cost-effective, including maximizing biomass feedstock productivity, breaking down cellulosic materials into sugars, and optimizing the fermentation process to convert sugars to ethanol.
The roadmap suggests that using biotechnological advances developed during the Human Genome Project and continued in the Genomics: GTL program in DOE's Office of Science can play a role. "The plan leverages ... advances made in genomics research and computation to build the new scientific and practical foundation needed to support an economic and sustainable biofuel industry," the government said in a fact sheet accompanying the report.
According to the fact sheet, "the power of modern genome sequencing and the capabilities at the DOE's Joint Genome Institute can be applied to these challenges. Using genome sequence (e.g., from switchgrass, poplar trees, etc.) to explore the genetic information encoded within will allow researchers to improve their knowledge about plant feedstocks and microbes used for conversion.
"This work will involve identifying: genes involved in the synthesis of cell-wall molecules and higher structures; reactions performed by the multitude of enzymes involved; design principles of cell walls; and factors controlling the amounts, composition, and structure of polymers and polymer matrices," the government said in the fact sheet.
"Discovery of new biomass-degrading biochemistries in organisms across many different kingdoms of life-including plants, fungi, and bacteria-will also expand our capabilities relevant to biomass conversion to biofuels," it concluded.
The roadmap addresses Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman's goal of displacing 30 percent of 2004 transportation fuel consumption with biofuels by 2030, a goal set in response to President Bush's Advanced Energy Initiative.
It was developed during a December 2005 workshop hosted jointly by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the Office of Science and the Office of the Biomass Program in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
The report, "Breaking the Biological Barriers to Cellulosic Ethanol: A Joint Research Agenda," may be viewed at Genomics: GTL's web site.

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