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Genomic Science Program

DOE BER Biological Systems Science Division Strategic Plan

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Publication date: April 2021

Suggested citation: U.S. DOE. 2021. Biological Systems Science Division Strategic Plan, DOE/SC-0205, U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science (

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The biological sciences continue to advance at a breathtaking pace. With roots in natural history and plant science, the impacts of biological research are pervasive in our modern lives, providing significant benefits in a range of economic sectors including agriculture, medicine, and energy. A recent confluence of technological advances promises to dramatically accelerate the ability to manipulate biological processes for productive uses. These transformative advances include genome editing and high-throughput DNA synthesis technologies that enable reconfiguration of genomic content, vastly improved computational capabilities, increased availability of immense amounts of omics-derived data, and the development of novel analytical solutions (e.g., artificial intelligence and machine learning). With these tools, the biobased economy holds promise for transforming our lives in remarkable ways.

by the numbers

BSSD-supported research is at the nexus of many of the defining frontiers of plant science, agricultural sustainability, synthetic biology, biobased materials, and environmental microbiome science. In addition, the Division tightly integrates this portfolio of scientific research projects at national laboratories and universities with support for world-leading user facilities, computational community resources, and research centers. Consequently, BSSD is well positioned to tackle exciting, emerging challenges and develop next-generation technological solutions that will unlock the promise of an innovative, resilient, and sustainable U.S. bioeconomy.

BSSD Research Goals

BSSD seeks to provide the necessary fundamental science to understand, predict, manipulate, and design biological systems that underpin innovations for bioenergy and bioproduct production and enhance our understanding of natural, DOE-relevant environmental processes.

Bioenergy Research: Provide the basic science needed to convert renewable biomass to a range of fuels, chemicals, and other bioproducts in support of a burgeoning bioeconomy.

  • Plant Genomics: Gain a genome-level understanding of plant metabolism, physiology, and growth to develop new bioenergy feedstocks with traits tailored for bioenergy and bioproduct production.
  • Microbial Conversion: Develop understanding of microbial and fungal metabolism necessary to design new strains, communities, or enzymes capable of converting plant biomass components into fuels, chemicals, and bioproducts.
  • Sustainable Bioenergy: Understand the genomic properties of plants, microbes, and their interactions to enable the development of new approaches that improve the efficacy of bioenergy crop production on marginal lands with few or no agricultural inputs, while minimizing ecological impacts under changing environmental conditions.

Biosystems Design: Advance fundamental understanding of genome biology and develop the genome-scale engineering technologies needed to design, build, and control plants and microbes for desired beneficial purposes.

  • Secure Biosystems Design: Build on advances in genome science and synthetic biology to design and engineer DOE-relevant biological systems with built-in biocontainment measures and develop strategies to address risks of unintended consequences, while enabling a sustainable bioeconomy.

Environmental Microbiome Research: Develop a process-level understanding of microbiome function and be able to predict ecosystem impacts on the cycling of materials (carbon, nutrients, and contaminants) in the environment.

Enabling Capabilities: Support the development of computational and instrumental platforms to enable broader integration and analysis of large-scale complex data within BER’s multidisciplinary research efforts.

  • Computational Biology: Integrated Computational Platforms: Create open-access and integrated computational capabilities tailored to large-scale data science investigations for molecular, structural, genomic, and omics-enabled research on plants and microorganisms for a range of DOE mission goals.
  • Biomolecular Characterization and Imaging Science: Improve or develop new multifunctional, multiscale imaging and measurement technologies that enable visualization of the spatiotemporal and functional relationships among biomolecules, cellular compartments, and higher-order organization of biological systems.

User Facility Integration: Build unique, best-in-class capabilities within Office of Science user facilities (including JGI, EMSL, and DOE’s light and neutron sources) to enhance the multidisciplinary Bioenergy Research, Biosystems Design, and Environmental Microbiome Research supported by the Division.

  • Genomics-Enabled Plant Biology for Determination of Gene Function DE-FOA-0002601 [12/16/21]
  • Systems Biology-Enabled Microbiome Research to Facilitate Predictions of Interactions and Behavior in the Environment DE-FOA-0002602 [12/15/21]
  • Biosystems Design to Enable Safe Production of Next-Generation Biofuels, Bioproducts, and Biomaterials DE-FOA-0002600 [12/13/21]
  • SBIR/STTR Funding Call for Climate, Energy and Scientific R&D DE-FOA-0002555 [12/13/21]
  • Quantum-Enabled Bioimaging and Sensing Approaches for Bioenergy DE-FOA-0002603 [11/15/21]
  • NAS Report: Quantum Science Concepts in Enhancing Sensing and Imaging Technologies: Applications for Biology. More »
  • JBEI's Jay Keasling named Office of Science Distinguished Scientist Fellow. More »
  • DOE BER Early Career Research Funding Opportunity Preapplications due Oct. 21. More »
  • Systems Biology of Bioenergy-Relevant Microbes Projects Awarded. [7/21] More »
  • BER Bioimaging Science Program announces new awards. [7/21] More »
  • DOE BER Request for Information – Responses due by 10- 31-21. More »
  • DOE BER Awards $45.5 Million [6/21] More »
  • More News and Announcements »

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