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US, Canada Fund Genome BC Military Bioremediation Project

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb news) – The University of British Columbia will use C$3.5 million ($3.2 million) in funding from the governments of Canada and the US in research aimed at finding genes in bacteria that can be used to clean up compounds left behind by bombs at military sites.

The funding came from Genome British Columbia and the US Department of Defense, including the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center and the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program.

The North American neighbors funded the project in the hopes of developing bioremediation technologies that could be used to degrade RDX, a nitramine that is commonly used to create explosions and can contaminate land around military sites at low but toxic levels.

On-site remediation using RDX-degrading microorganisms could be used to clean up the sites, but there currently is not enough knowledge about the biochemical and genetic pathways of the bacteria that have the capability to do it.

This UBC project will focus a strain of bacteria called Gordonia, and will involve developing and using metagenomics and transcriptomics to determine which genes are functionally relevant to the degradation of nitramine chemicals. The researchers will characterize the pathways and identify the genes that are responsible for RDX degradation and develop molecular probes for markers of, and to correlate environmental variables with, RDX-degradation efficiency.

"We are committed to conducting military training in a way that causes as little impact on the environment as possible," Sylvie Brochu, a Defense Scientist with Defense Research and Development Canada, said in a statement. "We are always looking for solutions to existing environmental problems and this research presents a natural solution that is very attractive."

"The innovative genomic approach of this research holds great promise for useful technologies and improved bioremediation strategies," Genome BC President and CEO Alan Winter said.

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