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Molecular Bioengineering for Biofuels

PhysOrg points to the addition of a seventh research theme to the agenda of the new Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign: Molecular Bioengineering for Biomass Conversion.

The multi-disciplinary research team will tackle using bioengineering as an approach to improving the efficient conversion of biofuels on five primary tracks:

  • How to alter plant cell wall materials to make them more amenable for bioprocessing by using genomic and proteomic information.

  • How to improve the breakdown of plant fiber by better understanding the genomics of the specialist bacteria that breakdown plant cell walls.

  • How metabolic engineering in combination with directed evolution and rational design methods may re-engineer microbes in order to generate novel compounds.

  • How to optimize new technologies for bioreactor design and engineering, product recovery, isolation and purification of targeted biomolecules.

  • How to use economic modeling as a predictor of commercial success for the production of new biomolecules from renewable biomass.

In May, the Department of Energy awarded the IGB a $2.98 million grant to focus on the genetic responses of soybeans to climate change. It was the first grant the new IGB (formed in 2003) had received.

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