Understanding the instructions for life encoded in the DNA sequence, or genome, of natural systems offers a wealth of potential for advancing biological solutions to many of today’s energy and environmental challenges. To harness this potential, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Genomic Science program supports fundamental research to understand the systems biology of plants and microbes as they respond to and modify their local environments. Systems biology is the holistic, multidisciplinary study of complex interactions that specify the function of an entire biological system—whether single cells or multicellular organisms—synthesizing decades of reductionist studies that identified and characterized individual components.
Achieve a predictive, systems-level understanding of plants, microbes, and biological communities to enable biobased solutions to DOE mission challenges in energy and environment.
The program's ultimate objectives are to:
Multiscale Explorations Achieving a predictive understanding of fundamental life processes requires investigations that span multiple levels, from the information encoded in individual plant and microbial genomes to the functioning of cells as communities in an ecosystem. Important to this challenge is understanding the complex interactions between each level of biological organization and the environment.
As a leader in systems biology research, the Genomic Science program uses genome sequences as the blueprint for understanding the common principles that govern living systems. Knowledge of these common principles revealed by studying organisms relevant to one DOE mission facilitates breakthroughs in the basic biology important to other DOE and national needs.
By examining the translation of genetic codes into functional proteins, biomolecular complexes, metabolic pathways, and regulatory networks, Genomic Science research focuses on the grand challenge of developing a mechanistic, predictive understanding of plant and microbial system behavior across a range of scales, from genes to small ecosystems. Scientific insights achieved in pursuit of this challenge will enable, for example, the design and re-engineering of plants and microbes for DOE missions in sustainable advanced biofuels and bioproducts, improved carbon storage capabilities, and controlled biological transformation of materials such as nutrients and contaminants in the environment.
The Genomic Science program is part of the Office of Biological and Environmental Research within DOE’s Office of Science.
The Biological and Environmental Research (BER) program, which supports the Genomic Science program, advances fundamental research and scientific user facilities relevant to Department of Energy (DOE) missions in scientific discovery and innovation, energy security, and environmental responsibility.
BER seeks to understand the biological, biogeochemical, and physical principles needed to predict a continuum of processes occurring across scales, from molecular and genomics-controlled mechanisms at the smallest scales to environmental and Earth system change at the largest scales. Starting with the genetic potential encoded by organisms’ genomes, BER research aims to define the principles underlying the systems biology of plants and microbes as they respond to and modify their environments. Knowledge of these principles is underpinning renewable energy innovations and deeper insights into natural environmental processes. BER also advances understanding of how the Earth’s dynamic, physical, and biogeochemical systems (atmosphere, land, oceans, sea ice, and subsurface) interact and affect future climate and environmental change. This research improves climate model predictions and offers valuable information for energy and resource planning.
Providing advice on the complex scientific and technical issues that arise in BER program development and implementation is the Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee (BERAC). BERAC’s activities include periodic reviews and recommendations for elements of BER’s program encompassing aspects of genomic science, environmental sciences, earth system science, subsurface biogeochemical research, and underlying competencies such as data management, data analysis, computational science, and scientific user facilities. Corresponding BERAC reports can be found at: https://science.osti.gov/ber/berac/Reports.