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Genome Engineering for Materials Synthesis Report

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Report from the October 2018 Workshop

Publication date: June 2019

Suggested citation: U.S. DOE. 2019. Genome Engineering for Materials Synthesis Workshop Report, DOE/SC-0198, U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.

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Background: The Biological Systems Science Division (BSSD) within the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER) funds basic research on plants and microbes relevant to several DOE bioenergy and environmental mission areas. BSSD has a long history of developing and supporting genomic, molecular, and structural characterization of biological systems. This sustained focus has led to important discoveries and increased understanding of these systems, as well as translational pathways to new processes and products.

BSSD research seeks to understand the fundamental genome-encoded properties of plants and microbes that can be harnessed or redesigned for beneficial purposes. Current emphases are leading to the discovery, development, and understanding of numerous plant and microbial species with traits suitable for the production of fuels and chemicals from renewable biomass or light. Additionally, BSSD supports research leading to an understanding of the complex and essential interactions among plants, microbial communities, and the environment.

The processes by which living organisms synthesize intricate and potentially valuable inorganic biomaterials are gaining increasing attention. The application of genomic, molecular, and structural tools offers great potential to better understand and potentially exploit these widespread, yet still poorly understood, genome-encoded biosynthetic processes.

To engage the relevant scientific communities in discussions of this research opportunity, BER convened the Genome Engineering for Materials Synthesis workshop on October 9–11, 2018 (see Appendices 1–3, pp. 45–48). Workshop participants defined opportunities and challenges for future efforts by considering a foundation of existing experimental work relevant to the biosynthesis of three classes of renewable inorganic biomaterials: (1) inorganic biominerals, (2) inorganic-organic hybrids, and (3) composites of inorganic materials and living cells.

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