Crop Biotech Update

University Team to Use Synthetic Biology to Re-engineer Plants for Biofuels

December 5, 2012

A research team at the Colorado State University (CSU) received a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for a research that seeks to re-engineer the sorghum plant for optimized biofuel production. The CSU team specializes in the field of synthetic biology or the application of engineering principles to biology and has been aiming to use this approach in redesigning bioenergy crops so that they can efficiently generate the needed raw material for biofuel conversion.

Research interests in fuel production from biological sources, or biofuels, have been in the rise triggered by the rising cost of petroleum and projected shortage in the next few decades. The global market for biofuels is estimated to reach $520 billion by 2020. Field crops like sorghum can be tapped and further improved for biofuel production but current genetic improvement methods are hampered by slow and less precise introduction of genetic traits. The cutting edge technology of synthetic biology which has overlaps with biotechnology can allow the team to implant novel regulatory genetic circuits into the sorghum plant and turn it into a new generation of bioenergy crop.

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