DENTON (UNT), Texas -- Plant science researchers at the University of North Texas have found potential new pathways for the creation of plant-based bioproducts. The research is outlined in a new article in the journal Nature Plants.
The UNT research team was working as part of the US Department of Energy's BioEnergy Science Center coordinated by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
The team looked into the roles of enzymes that convert amino acids into lignin in Brachypodium, a fast-growing model grass with a sequenced genome. Lignin is a substance that makes plants woody and firm, and, although it is an impediment to the processing of feedstocks for biofuels, it can be used to create a variety of bioproducts, including materials such as carbon fiber.
"As we studied the way different amino acids are converted to lignin, we found that there may be a new and unrecognized pathway for making lignin in grasses," said UNT Distinguished Research Professor Richard Dixon. "A new pathway means potential for engineering more lignin in plants that don't possess that pathway, as well as an additional way of modifying lignin in grasses. This provides new opportunities for the synthesis of high value, high volume bioproducts that could significantly improve the economics of the bioenergy industry."
ORNL has entered new license agreements with Foresight Science and Technology and GreenWood Resources. Foresight, a Comptche, California consulting company working with national laboratories and universities, licensed ORNL's AR-CITE copyrighted software and patent application that analyzes scientific literature to identify emerging technology trends. The company plans to use the technology to help partner institutions evaluate technology commercialization opportunities.
GreenWood Resources, a Portland, Ore., timberland investment and asset management company, licensed a patent application based on a gene that regulates phenylpropanoid, tyrosine and tryptophan biosynthesis pathways which can be used to reduce lignin content and increase ethanol yield in biofuels feedstocks.
AR-CITE was developed by Bob Abercrombie, Margaret Lantz, Bob Schlicher and Rick Sheldon. The technology for plant and crops improvements was developed by Wellington Muchero, Gerald Tuskan, Lee Gunter, Sara Jawdy, Anthony Bryan, Hao-Bo Guo, Stephen DiFazio and Jin-Gui Chen. The licenses were negotiated by S&T Partnership's David Sims and Jen Caldwell.
Brian Davison has been elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.
The fellowship is AIChE's highest grade of membership and honors senior member who have made meaningful impacts to the chemical engineering profession. Brian is the chief scientist for the Systems Biology and Biotechnology Initiative as well as the science coordinator for the BioEnergy Science Center.
In a career spanning 30 years of bioprocessing research, Brian has been involved in numerous biotechnology projects and received numerous accolades for his work, including a 1997 R&D 100 Award for an integrative process to develop industrial chemicals using Escherichiacoli.
He has published more than 145 research publications and holds nine patents. Davison earned his doctorate in chemical engineering from the California Institute of Technology.
Three U.S. Department of Energy-funded research centers - the BioEnergy Science Center, the Great Lakes Bioenergy Center and the Joint BioEnergy Institute - are making progress on a shared mission to develop technologies that will bring advanced biofuels to the marketplace, reporting the disclosure of their 500th invention.