Tool Development for Transformational Biotechnology Advances Workshop

ARPA-E hosted an event in its public workshop series, “Tool Development for Transformation Biotechnology Advances,” on October 6-7, 2011 in Arlington, VA.

The workshop brought together thought leaders from distinct science and engineering communities to develop new ideas and identify key needs and potentially transformational R&D approaches in plant biotechnology and synthetic biology to develop products in the biofuel and renewable products market. These technologies should allow rapid improvements in crop development for food and energy needs that have been limited because of the low throughput nature of producing and characterizing transgenic plants with complex phenotypes.  

Specifically, ARPA-E is interested in exploring opportunities to combine plant molecular biology, high throughput analytical technologies, and genome engineering for applications such as:

  • Synthetic biology: Can designer photosynthetic microbes and microbes capable of symbiotic growth inside plants for use as trait delivery systems be produced?  Approaches for discussion may involve large scale gene synthesis, endophyte biology, in silico modeling of biological systems, directed evolution, and systems engineering concepts.
  • Tool development: What novel tools are needed to significantly improve transformation efficiency over a wide variety of plants with precise control, along with performing high throughput phenotypic screening? Approaches for discussion may involve plant tissue culture technologies, gene delivery systems, targeted gene integration, application of microfabrication technologies, and profiling biological samples to accurately predict mature plant phenotypes early in the maturation stage.

Special attention was directed towards identifying low-cost strategies to develop transformative tools for plant biotechnology that could be widely applicable outside the plant field. In general, ARPA-E supports projects that have a high degree of technical or execution risk, beyond the range of typical government R&D funding.

View the workshop's agenda (pdf). Proceedings from the meeting are summarized below. 

Speakers, Presentations, and Outputs:

Eric Toone, ARPA-E Program Director: Welcome and Opening Remarks (pdf)

Jonathan Burbaum, ARPA-E Program Director: Workshop Overview and Objectives (pdf)

June Medford, Colorado State University: Overview of Plant Biology and Limitations (pdf)

Neal Stewart, University of Tennessee: Overview of Current Plant Transformation Technologies (pdf)

Breakout Session: Plant Systems (pdf)

Breakout Session: Genetic Tools (pdf)

Breakout Session: Engineering Tools (pdf)

Workshop Wrap-Up (pdf)

Workshop Output Report (pdf)