Energy Department awards $92 million

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Department of Energy today announced research awards totaling $92 million for six projects to better understand microbes and microbial communities. The microbial world and biotechnology promise solutions to major Energy Department challenges in: energy, including the production of ethanol and hydrogen; cleanup of pollution at former nuclear weapons production sites; and minimizing global warming by controlling the cycling of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

"Unique microbial biochemistries amassed over eons in every niche on the planet now offer a virtually limitless resource that can be applied to develop biology-based solutions to these challenges," said Dr. Raymond L. Orbach, Director of DOE's Office of Science.

The six projects involve 75 senior scientists at 21 institutions: four DOE national laboratories, 15 universities or research institutes, one federal laboratory and one private company.

The grants are part of the Office of Science's Genomics: GTL research program. "The GTL program's goal is to understand microbes so well that their diverse capabilities can be harnessed for DOE and other national energy and environmental needs," Orbach said.

DOE investments in genomics research over the past 20 years now help allow scientists rapidly decode and interpret the complete DNA sequence of any organism. Because genomics reveals the blueprint for life, it is the starting point to understand biological functions as well as a link between biological research and the development of biotechnology solutions. With genomics data as a starting point, the GTL program uses a "systems biology" approach to transform the way scientists conduct biological investigations and describe living systems.

In systems biology, researchers study the interaction and relationship between various parts of a biological system V for example, a cell or an organism -- in order to develop a model of the whole system. A key GTL

Contact: Jeff Sherwood
DOE/US Department of Energy

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