AFINGEN was established as a startup from LBNL: “New Lab Startup Afingen Uses Precision Method to Enhance Plants”
October 29, 2014
Berkeley Lab breakthrough can lead to cheaper biofuels, improved crops, and new products from plants. Imagine being able to precisely control specific tissues of a plant to enhance desired traits without affecting the plant’s overall function. Thus a rubber tree could be manipulated to produce more natural latex. Trees grown for wood could be made with higher lignin content, making for stronger yet lighter-weight lumber. Crops could be altered so that only the leaves and certain other tissues had more wax, thus enhancing the plant’s drought tolerance, while its roots and other functions were unaffected. By manipulating a plant’s metabolic pathways, two scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), Henrik Scheller and Dominique Loqué, have figured out a way to genetically rewire plants to allow for an exceptionally high level of control over the spatial pattern of gene expression, while at the same time boosting expression to very high levels. Now they have launched a startup company called AFINGEN to apply this technology for developing low-cost biofuels that could be cost-competitive with gasoline and corn ethanol.
Photo: Scheller and Loqué, plant biologists with the Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), a Berkeley Lab-led research center established in 2007 to pursue breakthroughs in the production of cellulosic biofuels.