They were recognized for their Tissue-Specific Cell-Wall Engineering for Biofuels and Biomaterials, a suite of precision genetic tools that will improve crops bred for production of food, biofuels, industrial polymers, and pharmaceuticals.
A common goal for biofuel crops is to reduce lignin, a tough polymer that is difficult to ferment. Low-lignin traits can be transferred through gene-inactivation, but such plants grow poorly. The new approach limits high lignin to nutrient-carrying vessel cells, where its strength is essential for plant survival, while overall lignin levels stay low. The technology fine-tunes lignin by manipulating chemical signals that govern plant-cell metabolism. A key innovation, an artificial positive feedback loop, dramatically enhances this pinpoint control. Plants can be coaxed to make more cellulose and less xylan — also good for biofuels.
This synthetic biology platform can enhance drought-resistance, make cattle forage more nutritious, and even coax plants or fungi to yield high-value drugs and biomaterials.
In total, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has won three 2014 R&D 100 awards. The technologies could lead to advances in biofuels, food crops, drug development, and biomaterials, and a to better understanding of microbial communities, to name a few potential benefits.
Presented by R&D Magazine, the R&D 100 Awards recognize the year’s top 100 technology products from industry, academia, and government-sponsored research, ranging from chemistry to materials to biomedical breakthroughs. The three awards this year brings the total of Berkeley Lab’s R&D 100 wins to 73, plus two Editors’ Choice Awards.
More information on the Berkeley Lab’s 2014 R&D 100 Winners, click here