DOE and NSF Select Three Projects to Accelerate Biomanufacturing Innovation and Advance the U.S. Bioeconomy
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On August 29, 2023, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) announced that through the funding opportunity entitled “Accelerating Innovations in Biomanufacturing Approaches through Collaboration Between [the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF)] and the DOE BETO funded Agile BioFoundry (ABF),” researchers will collaborate with the ABF consortium’s synthetic and bioengineering research projects. BETO and NSF have selected the following projects:
- Enabling Scalable Redox Reactions in Biomanufacturing (University of California, Irvine, and University of California, Davis): This project will enhance the carbon and energy efficiency of a biomanufacturing process by upgrading carboxylic acids into precursors for biofuels and chemicals used in industry. The goal is to create a more efficient process for carboxylic acid reduction that does not release any carbon into the atmosphere. The team will work to identify the principles necessary to enhance efficiency in the enzymes used in the process. Through outreach efforts, the researchers will provide hands-on exposure to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields for largely Hispanic populations and women, both groups underrepresented in science and engineering.
- A Synthetic Biology Toolbox for Studying Bacterial Transporters (University of Wisconsin -- Madison): This project will develop and use tools to close knowledge gaps surrounding transporters in Gram negative bacteria to facilitate the development of superior biomanufacturing hosts. Specifically, they will work to identify proteins that enhance the uptake of nutrients into the cells of microbes and the removal of toxic products. The work will enable the development of superior biomanufacturing microbial hosts and support translational research. Activities that teach biomanufacturing concepts to K-8 students and recruitment of underrepresented researchers will broaden the impacts of the work.
- Leveraging the Unique Metabolism of Megasphaera elsdenii for Metabolic Engineering to Medium and Long Chain Organic Acids for Use in Jet Fuels and Biomaterials (University of Georgia): The project will work to increase understanding of the metabolic pathways that allow the microorganism Megasphaera elsdenii to produce hexanoic acid, that can be engineered to create sustainable aviation fuel among a host of other products. Understanding how octanoic acid is created in this organism will enable scientists better to convert plant sugars to longer chain molecules and will provide paths for alternative approaches to bioprocessing. The team will recruit students from underrepresented groups and create classroom resources for use in elementary schools.