BIOMASS RESEARCH DIVISION
Improvement of Biomass (Agronomy, Breeding, Biotechnology)
Identify new paths to genetically manipulate the energy metabolism of cultivated
plants, creating new biofuel alternatives
Contribute with knowledge and technologies for Sugarcane Improvement
Enable a Systems Biology approach for Biofuel Crops
The goal of the Biomass Research Division is to carry out basic research on sugar cane and other biofuel plants and to create an interface between different disciplines in order to allow a systemic approach to sugar cane biology. The activities include research on organisms with lignocellulolytic activity with a potential use in cellulosic ethanol production. The challenge is to establish a new model of research and development in the area of bioenergy that will have an effective impact on the improvement of cultivars of interest. The research projects associated with biomass should address the main problems of plant biology, trying to elucidate the relation among genome, metabolism, physiological and adaptive responses to the environment. The purpose is to identify new paths to genetically manipulate the energy metabolism of cultivated plants, creating new biofuel alternatives.
The Biomass Division will also contribute to the instruction and training of qualified personnel to work in the area of Bioenergy. Groups and research areas that can contribute to the development of the program objectives will be identified through calls for research proposals.
The Biomass Research Division is led by research groups located in Institutions of the state of São Paulo. They have a longstanding experience in sugarcane genomics most of them originating from the FAPESP SUCEST Program created in 2000 to study sugarcane genomics. The BIOMASS group has a portfolio of more than 200 scientific publications in the field, five patents on genes and promoters and thirty-four sugarcane cultivars registered. There are thirty graduate students in the main research group which is associated with twenty national and seventeen international collaborating research groups, encompassing sixty researchers.
The Biomass Research Division will establish an integrated research network based on advanced science and innovative strategies that will support breeding programs in the development of new cultivars, the production of transgenic sugar cane plants, the identification and implementation of new feedstock alternatives, studies of the cell wall and enzymes to degrade it, thus contributing to consolidate Brazil’s leadership in Bioenergy.
GENOMICS, GENETICS, PHYSIOLOGY AND BREEDING
The Biomass Division will establish an integrated research and innovation network in sugar cane genomics, plant, insect and microorganism biochemistry, biotechnology and cultivar improvement. The group will train and graduate qualified researchers in Bioenergy to support breeding programs in Brazil and to obtain the intellectual property that will allow freedom to operate in the area.
Investigators will develop research on sequencing of genomes, identification of molecular markers and genes associated with agronomic characteristics of interest, production and evaluation of transgenic sugar cane, breeding and characterization of new cultivars, basic research on biology, genetics, biochemistry, plant physiology, regulatory networks of sugar cane and other model plants that may contribute to the development of research on bioenergy or that have biofuel potential. Research is also being conduct on fungi, metagenomics, insects and hydrolytic enzymes with a potential for bioefuel production.
The Division’s projects will be led by researchers located at Universidade de São Paulo, Universidade Federal de São Carlos and Universidade Estadual de Campinas.The instruction and training of qualified personnel is being improved with postgraduate programs including the international postgraduate course from USP (PGI), which consists of a tripartite partnership of USP, Ohio-State University and Rutgers University. Additionally, the Biomass Division has partnerships established with groups from USA (University of Georgia, University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne, Michigan State University) and France (CIRAD, CNRG and INRA) on genome sequencing; with France (CIRAD, CNRG and INRA) on genotyping; with USA (Purdue University), France (Research Center on Plant Macromolecules) and UK (Cambridge University) on studies of the structure of cell walls in plants; with USA (Ohio-State University), France (URGV, INRA and CNRS) and Germany (University of Potsdam) on genetics and gene expression regulation; with USA (Ohio-State University and Rutgers University) on photosynthesis; with USA (Rutgers University) on herbivory; with Australia (University of Western Austrália, University of Queensland) on ecophysiology; and with Mexico (Institut of Ecology) on functional anatomy.
The Biomass Research Group aims to integrate comprehensive research on sugarcane and other plants that can be used as biofuel sources, thus assuring Brazil’s position among the leaders in the area of Bioenergy. The challenge will be to guarantee innovative research in the areas of genomics, genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, agronomy, and bioinformatics, with emphasis on studies that address the following themes:
- Genome sequencing
- Comparative, structural and evolutionary genomics of grasses
- Development of new sugar cane cultivars
- Biochemical, physiological and agronomic evaluation of cultivars
- Discovery of genes associated with agronomic characteristics of interest
- Analysis of transcriptome, proteome and metabolome
- Signaling, regulation of gene expression and regulatory networks
- Genetic transformation of sugar cane and other grasses
- Molecular markers
- Physical, genetic and molecular mapping of genomes
- Metabolic networks of the production of carbohydrates and sucrose
- Function and structure of cell walls and hydrolases in the production of cellulosic ethanol
- New fungi isolates, metagenomics for novel enzyme identification
- Impact of climate changes and productivity
- Environmental impact of GM sugar cane and biosafety
- Intellectual property and technology transfer