ABF, NSF Select New Projects to Advance the U.S. Bioeconomy

Credit: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Biotechnology and biomanufacturing continue to offer vast opportunities to advance science and engineering, support a growing U.S. bioeconomy, and provide solutions to our nation’s climate change challenges. To help accelerate innovation and develop new biomanufacturing approaches, three new projects were selected for funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). 

Through the funding opportunity titled, “Accelerating Innovations in Biomanufacturing Approaches through Collaboration Between NSF and the DOE BETO-funded Agile BioFoundry (ABF), researchers will collaborate with the ABF consortium’s synthetic and bioengineering research projects. “The U.S. has set aggressive decarbonization goals for 2030 and beyond,” said Dr. Valerie Sarisky-Reed, BETO Director. “These award recipients will leverage ABF’s rapid prototyping and advanced biotechnology resources to accelerate basic research projects to deployment, reducing America’s dependence on fossil fuels and lowering greenhouse gas emissions from fuel and chemical production.”

BETO and NSF have selected the following projects:

  • The University of California, Irvine and University of California, Davis will jointly work to enhance the carbon and energy efficiency of a biomanufacturing process by upgrading carboxylic acids into precursors for biofuels and chemicals used in industry. 
  • Researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison will develop and use tools to close knowledge gaps surrounding transporters in Gram-negative bacteria to facilitate the development of superior biomanufacturing hosts. 
  • University of Georgia researchers 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.

Funded by BETO, ABF aims to develop biomanufacturing tools, processes, and partnerships that enable sustainable industrial production of renewable fuels and chemicals for the nation. The integrated Design-Build-Test-Learn capabilities of the ABF offer a unique resource to the academic community to develop and implement innovative biomanufacturing technologies and practices.

“The NSF and BETO both recognize the critical roles that synthetic and engineering biology play in advancing the U.S. bioeconomy,” said Dr. Susan Marqusee, assistant director for biological sciences at NSF. “The selected projects all directly contribute to the production of renewable biochemicals and biofuels and build foundational technologies critical for limiting the carbon footprint of industry.”

All selected projects address goals from the recent White House Office of Science and Technology Policy report Bold Goals for U.S. Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing, to which both NSF and DOE contributed. The report outlines ambitious national targets for the next two decades to help establish R&D priorities that will be critical to advance the bioeconomy.

ABF partners include Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and more than 30 university and industry partners.