The DOE National Laboratories have state-of-the-art, complementary, and unique capabilities that are being brought to bear to build powerful infrastructure and scientific engineering activities to render design and implementation of new bio-based products scalable, predictable, and more cost-effective.
In 2016, the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) supported Agile Biomanufacturing to execute initial work to provide proof-of-concept for the Agile BioFoundry (ABF). EERE provided $3M for the ABF as a distributed consortium of nine DOE National Laboratories. The $3M was intended to establish the ABF, and support complementary biological engineering efforts in industry and academia. Foundational efforts include industry engagement and visioning opportunities and a biological systems design pilot project to demonstrate the capabilities required.
At a listening day in March 2016, industry members identified shared pre-competitive research and development challenges, as well as best practices for industry-National Lab collaborations. Subsequently, the National Labs developed a vision for the consortium with additional input from federal government stakeholders and created a proposed plan, which was iterated on with all stakeholder groups. The final vision and plan for the ABF project describes the response strategy to address shared industry needs for development of biological engineering technologies that can help companies drive the bioeconomy. For Fiscal Year 2017, EERE funded the ABF to the tune of $20M to continue work on the pilot project, and developing capabilities and capacity within the consortium.
Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Ames National Lab, Argonne National Lab, Idaho National Lab, Los Alamos National Lab, the National Renewable Energy Lab, Oak Ridge National Lab, Pacific Northwest National Lab, and Sandia National Labs collaborated under Agile Biomanufacturing to execute the initial work.
Moving forward, the ABF is expected to develop biological approaches for producing advanced biofuels, renewable chemicals, and materials that represent low greenhouse gas alternatives to products currently derived from petroleum. The effort will focus on uniting tools, technologies, software, and instrumentation across the National Laboratory system for facile engineering of biology for production of fuels and chemicals from domestic, renewable biomass. Central to this effort is developing databases and machine learning methods to enable better, automated bioprocess design with predictable performance and scaling. Based on the listening sessions and future industry input, the labs will develop industrially-relevant host microbes (bacteria, fungi, and algae) for robust production of commodity chemicals and biofuels. Because the effort is focused on challenges in the industrial chemicals and fuels sector, there will be no work on human or other mammalian cells or genomes. Ultimately, the ABF will enable companies, National Labs, and academic institutions to develop biological processes efficiently and with reduced risk to create products with better performance than their predecessors.