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Western Australia Launches New Plant Energy Research Center

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The University of Western Australia said yesterday it has officially launched a new research center at its campus in Perth that will pursue molecular, genomic, and cellular research aimed at understanding and improving plant energy use.

Funded with AU$26 million (US$24.3 million) from the Australian Research Council and AU$14 million from industry and academic partners, the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology (PEB) will seek to improve sustainable plant yield by optimizing the efficiency of energy capture, conversion, and use in plants.

Researchers at the PEB will seek to define the complex system that determines energy efficiency in plants by discovering "gatekeeper cells" and epigenetic controls that regulate it, and to develop ways to manipulate these activities to boost efficiency and yields. The center has three core research themes, including projects targeting gene variants and epigenetics, energy metabolism and signaling, and gatekeeper cells and specialization. To conduct these projects, the PEB includes a range of research platforms for next-generation sequencing, molecular profiling, proteomics, metabolomics, bioinformatics, and other applications.

The PEB is a collaboration between UWA, the Australian National University, the University of Adelaide, and La Trobe University. It houses 10 chief investigators, 110 staff members and students, and involves eight partner investigators in the US, Germany, Finland, Sweden, and China.

The center also works with industry partners, including Agilent Technologies, the Grain Research and Development Corporation, Photon Systems Instruments, and others.

ARC centers of excellence are generally funded for up to seven years, enabling them to undertake comprehensive research programs and short-term projects.