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.

General Objectives

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

- Bioinformatics

- Impact of climate changes and productivity

- Environmental impact of GM sugar cane and biosafety

- Intellectual property and technology transfer