Michigan State University scientists, armed with a half-million-dollar
federal grant, are creating an easily accessible, Web-based genomic
database of information on crops that can be used to make ethanol.
"Ultimately this will allow us to create better biofuel crops," said
C. Robin Buell, associate professor of plant biology and project
leader. "Right now, about half of the biofuel crops don’t have genomic
databases, and the ones that do are in many different places and are
annotated differently, which makes it difficult to compare and use the
Genomic databases contain information on the molecular biology and genetics of a particular species.
Buell and Kevin Childs, a postdoctoral researcher in her lab, will
use the $540,000 joint grant from the departments of Agriculture and
Energy to centralize the genomic databases, create uniform annotations
(notes or descriptions of the genomes), provide data-mining and search
tools, and provide a Web site for scientists from around the world to
access the databases. They also will regularly update the information.
"Our biofuel genomic database portal will include information on any
crop that can be used to produce cellulosic ethanol, including all the
grasses such as corn, rice, maize, wheat and other biofuel species such
as poplar, willow and pine," Buell explained. "This will save
researchers a lot of effort, so we expect it to be a valuable resource
for scientists at MSU and around the world."
"Cellulosic biofuels offer one of the best near- to mid-term
alternatives we have, on the energy production side, to reduce reliance
and imported oil and cut greenhouse gas emissions, while continuing to
meet the nation’s transportation energy needs," said Raymond Orbach,
undersecretary for science for the Energy Department.
"Developing cost-effective means of producing cellulosic biofuels on
a national scale poses major scientific challenges," Orbach added,
"(and) these grants will help in developing the type of
transformational breakthroughs needed in basic science to make this
Source : Michigan State University. August 2008.