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Deal Watch: Grant helps OSU research biofuel crops

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Archives - October 2008
Wednesday, October 01, 2008

When it comes to fundamental biological research, the fruit fly has long been the classic model organism on which scientists experiment.  

Now, thanks to one of two $1.2 million federal grants, researchers at Oregon State University are creating a sort of fruit fly of their own that will be used for the study of cellulosic biofuel feedstock crops that could one day become alternative sources of fuel.

“What our project is about is really fundamental basic research that relates to cellulosic ethanol,” says Todd Mockler, an assistant professor of botany at OSU. “And for that kind of research, you need a model organism.”

Mockler’s project received a three-year, $1.2 million grant from the Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to basically create a DNA chip for brachypodium, a model grass that researchers can study to learn more about the biofuel crops of tomorrow.

The chip, a tiny square packed with brachypodium DNA, will be manufactured by the California firm Affymetrix and made available to researchers all over the world. Those scientists will conduct experiments to see how brachypodium can be made into a superior crop that is, say, more resistant to drought or insects. Once scientists figure out how to make those genetic modifications in brachypodium, they’ll be able to make them in closely related biofuel crops like switchgrass.

The other $1.2 million grant went to OSU forest science professor Steven Strauss, who will study the poplar tree, which itself may be a valuable biofuel crop someday.

But don’t expect to see poplar- or switchgrass-based ethanol fuels at the pump anytime soon. While Mockler sees these grants as a welcome opportunity for research, it likely will be years before alternative fuels like these play a more significant role.

“The technology isn’t mature enough yet to make billions of gallons of ethanol from cellulose for fuel,” he says. “But there are lots of possible solutions.”                   



$310M Q3 L-1 Identity Solutions (CT) Digimarc (Beaverton) 8/4
$34.25M Q3 NDS Surgical Imaging (CA) Planar Systems (Beaverton) 8/6
$7.2M ND Transcat (NY) Westcon (Portland) 8/14
ND ND Harry & David Holdings (Medford) Cushman Fruit Company (FL) 8/11
ND ND Kriptiq (Hillsboro) Secure Network Solutions (Portland) 8/19
ND ND Maletis Beverage (Portland) The Odom Corp (Washington) 8/6
ND ND Norandex Building Materials Distribution (OH) Crown Building Materials (Portland) 8/18
ND Q3 (fiscal 09) Precision Castparts (Portland) Airdrome Holdings (CA) 8/28
ND ND Todd Edman (Eugene) Lunar Logic (Eugene) 8/26

$30M Guardian Management (Portland) Waterhouse Place Apartments (Beaverton)/ND 8/15
$12.1M G&S International (Portland) Office building (Portland)/Opus Northwest (MN) 8/11
$7.3M Robert and Donna Hansen Walgreens (Lake Oswego)/FWI Oregon (Lake Oswego) 8/5
$2.5M Momo Properties (Portland) 9,080 sq feet, Pearl Design Center (Portland)/Stark Group (Portland) 8/15
$2.2M KMR Limited Partnership-4700 10 acres, Minnehaha Business Park (Vancouver)/Erickson Properties (WA) 8/11
$1.6M City of Eugene 40 acres of Amazon Creek headwaters (Eugene)/Joe Green (Aurora) 8/7
$1.2M Urban Development Partners NW (Portland) The Richmond Building (Portland)/Sassafras LLC (Portland) 8/6
$1.1M OSU Federal Credit Union (Corvallis) Bank building (Salem)/Bank of the Cascades (Bend) 8/11
$760,000 Janro Properties (Wilsonville) Office building (Wilsonville)/Stafford Woods LLC (Wilsonville) 8/8
$715,000 MAJ Holdings (WA) 39,640 sq feet, Van Mall Commons (Vancouver)/Addie Soo (CA) 8/8
$140,000 Wells Fargo Bank (CA) Two lots (Tillamook)/State investments (Salem) 8/6
ND RealNet Equities (Portland) Lochwood Square Shopping Center (CO)/ND 8/4

$18M (college prep grant) Oregon University System U.S. Department of Education 8/12
$14.7M (sales order) FLIR (Portland) Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (IN) 8/18
$3.2M (sales order) LaCrosse Footwear (Portland) U.S. Department of Defense 8/26
$3.2M (grant) Portland Community College (Portland) Worksystems (Portland) 8/8
$2.4M (two grants) Oregon State University (Corvallis) U.S. Dept. of Energy and U.S. Dept of Agriculture 8/1
$1.4M (grant for scholarships) Oregon State University (Corvallis) Jim and Judith Atwood Youde 8/7
$2.7M (food crisis response grant) Mercy Corps (Portland) Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (WA) 8/14
$241,500 (park-and-ride grant) Rogue Valley Transit District Federal Transit Administration 8/22

List researched by Jon Bell

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