Deal Watch: Grant helps OSU research biofuel crops

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


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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.”                   



$310MQ3L-1 Identity Solutions (CT)Digimarc (Beaverton)8/4
$34.25MQ3NDS Surgical Imaging (CA)Planar Systems (Beaverton)8/6
$7.2MNDTranscat (NY)Westcon (Portland)8/14
NDNDHarry & David Holdings (Medford)Cushman Fruit Company (FL)8/11
NDNDKriptiq (Hillsboro)Secure Network Solutions (Portland)8/19
NDNDMaletis Beverage (Portland)The Odom Corp (Washington)8/6
NDNDNorandex Building Materials Distribution (OH)Crown Building Materials (Portland)8/18
NDQ3 (fiscal 09)Precision Castparts (Portland)Airdrome Holdings (CA)8/28
NDNDTodd Edman (Eugene)Lunar Logic (Eugene)8/26
$30MGuardian Management (Portland)Waterhouse Place Apartments (Beaverton)/ND8/15
$12.1MG&S International (Portland)Office building (Portland)/Opus Northwest (MN)8/11
$7.3MRobert and Donna HansenWalgreens (Lake Oswego)/FWI Oregon (Lake Oswego)8/5
$2.5MMomo Properties (Portland)9,080 sq feet, Pearl Design Center (Portland)/Stark Group (Portland)8/15
$2.2MKMR Limited Partnership-470010 acres, Minnehaha Business Park (Vancouver)/Erickson Properties (WA)8/11
$1.6MCity of Eugene40 acres of Amazon Creek headwaters (Eugene)/Joe Green (Aurora)8/7
$1.2MUrban Development Partners NW (Portland)The Richmond Building (Portland)/Sassafras LLC (Portland)8/6
$1.1MOSU Federal Credit Union (Corvallis)Bank building (Salem)/Bank of the Cascades (Bend)8/11
$760,000Janro Properties (Wilsonville)Office building (Wilsonville)/Stafford Woods LLC (Wilsonville)8/8
$715,000MAJ Holdings (WA)39,640 sq feet, Van Mall Commons (Vancouver)/Addie Soo (CA)8/8
$140,000Wells Fargo Bank (CA)Two lots (Tillamook)/State investments (Salem)8/6
NDRealNet Equities (Portland)Lochwood Square Shopping Center (CO)/ND8/4
$18M (college prep grant)Oregon University SystemU.S. Department of Education8/12
$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 Defense8/26
$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 Agriculture8/1
$1.4M (grant for scholarships)Oregon State University (Corvallis)Jim and Judith Atwood Youde8/7
$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 DistrictFederal Transit Administration8/22

List researched by Jon Bell

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