AFINGEN received $1.72M research grant from DOE SBIR Fast-track program

February 28, 2014


The SBIR and STTR programs are U.S. Government programs, intended to help certain small businesses conduct R&D. At DOE, funding takes the form of grants. Projects must have the potential for commercialization and meet specific DOE mission-specific R&D needs.

DOE offers more than sixty technical topics and 250 subtopics, spanning research areas that support the DOE mission in:

  • Energy Production
  • Energy Use
  • Fundamental Energy Sciences
  • Environmental Management, and
  • Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation




Liquid fuel produced from dried plant material (i.e. lignocellulosic biomass such as wood chips, straw, switchgrass, and corn stover) is nearly cost competitive with corn ethanol. Lignocellulosic biomass is the most abundant, readily available, and renewable material on Earth to produce biofuels. However, lignin, a key component of plant material necessary for growth and protection against pathogens and pests, is a very tough substance that prevents accessibility to fermentable sugars present in biomass. Lignification makes biomass processing for biofuels very difficult and expensive. Previous efforts to develop low lignin plants have failed due to weakened stalks and stems and poor growth. In this project, we will validate the combination of two traits (cell-­‐specific low lignin and increased fermentable sugar accumulation) that were successfully proven in model plant organisms. In Phase I, we will develop synthetic biology tools for plant transformation and generate low lignin/high sugar switchgrass transgenic lines. During Phase II, these lines will be extensively characterized for their optimized properties in greenhouse trials, and the best engineering strategies will be selected for field trials for a Phase III effort.