The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
(NSERC) supports researchers and companies working on large-scale
multidisciplinary research projects in areas of importance to Canadians. As
part of this program, NSERC
is providing the University of Toronto with $5 million to help launch the
Industrial Biocatalysis Network, which will research novel uses of
enzymes to produce chemicals, plastics, and other products. This program will
be run in collaboration with Concordia University and the University of British
Columbia and will support the growth of the biobased chemical and materials
sector in Canada.
The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and the Rosalind Franklin Society will present the BIO Rosalind Franklin Award for Leadership in Industrial Biotechnology to Dr. Debbie Yaver at the 2014 BIO Pacific Rim Summit on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy's "Women in Biotechnology Reception," sponsored by BRAG. Dr. Yaver has studied the role of the vacuolar ATPase in protein sorting, as well as gene expression technology in bacterial and fungal systems. She is now researching engineering microbial strains to produce enzymes, proteins, and molecules, while also working with genomics and bioinformatics.
On October 7, 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released "Why Biobased?," a report that comprehensively synthesizes findings from the existing government, academia, and non-governmental organizations on bioeconomy opportunities. The report is a precursor for another study to be issued in the near future by the USDA BioPreferred program on the economic impacts of the biobased products industry.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated "[t]his new report presents the opportunities U.S. agriculture and forests have in the emerging bioeconomy. The recent inclusion of mature market products into the BioPreferred program strengthens our commitment to the U.S. biobased economy and brings together two of the most important economic engines for rural America: agriculture and manufacturing."
More information can be found in the USDA press release. The "Why Biobased?" report can be downloaded online.
Researchers from the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products at the University of York worked with colleagues in France to discover variant straw plants whose cell walls are more easily broken down to make biofuels. Straw is an ideal plant to be used as biomass as it does not have food uses and contains a high number of polysaccharides that can be fermented into ethanol. Previously, straw has not been commercially viable as a biofuel feedstock as the cost of breaking down the straw to produce sugars is too high. This research identified 12 straw variants that are easier to digest without negatively affecting the strength of the plant. These findings could lead the way to viable uses for straw in biofuel production in the future. More information is available online.
The National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academies hosted the first public meeting for the Committee on Genetically Engineered Crops: Past Experience and Future Prospects on September 15-17, 2014. This public meeting was the first of a series of events that are part of NRC's ongoing study to determine the benefits and risks of genetically engineered crops. A webinar related to this study has been scheduled for October 1, 2014, and more information is available online. A transcript of the public meeting held September 15-17, 2014, is available online.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has developed a computational platform known as Systems Biology Knowledgebase, or KBase, designed to help the biological community analyze, store, and share data. The project is led by scientists at DOE's Lawrence Berkeley, Argonne, Brookhaven, and Oak Ridge national laboratories. KBase compiles information on plants and microbes, and the interactions among them with the objective of improving the environment and energy production. KBase can be accessed at http://kbase.us/. More information on KBase and its objectives can be found online.
Energy Trends Insider posted a column analyzing the current status of global biofuels. Information for the analysis was derived from the Renewables 2014 Global Status Report, which was issued in June 2014. According to the column author, "the GSR is the most comprehensive report available when it comes to the global renewable energy picture." To view the analysis, go online.
Global Biofuels Demand Slows Down
According to an article posted at Biofuels International, biofuels growth in the 2013-18 period will be modest compared to the 2008-13 period. See online.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) released the third annual Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report. The report provides forecasts for global biofuel and renewable energy growth. Within the report, the authors predict that the expansion of renewable energy will slow over the next five years unless policy certainty is diminished. For more information, see online.
The global surfactants market is projected to reach 22,802.1 kilotons, in terms of consumption, and $40,286.3 million in terms of value, by 2019, according to the report, "Surfactants Market by Product type [Anionic, Non-Ionic, Cationic, Amphoteric], Substrates [Synthetic/Petrochemical based and Natural/Bio-based/Green], and Applications - Global Trends & Forecast to 2019." According to an article posted by PR Newswire, the report indicates that biobased surfactants are driving the global markets due to regulations and non-toxicity. See online.
The Energy Biosciences Institute at the University of Illinois recently helped fund two research projects that provide recommendations to prevent invasive species from being planted as new crops and used for bioenergy production. The two studies are: (1) "Resolving Regulatory Uncertainty: Legislative Language for Potentially Invasive Bioenergy Feedstocks"; and (2) "Bioenergy Feedstocks at Low Risk for Invasion in the U.S.: A 'White List' Approach."
The first study recognizes that considerations related to potential invasiveness are not now required as part of EPA's approval process for new fuel pathways under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Accordingly, the study defines "invasive" and suggests regulations that could become a part of the RFS.
The second study establishes a "white list" of 49 plants for bioenergy production that would be considered low-risk for potential invasiveness.
The College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois recently published an article on the two research projects. That article is available online.