EPA Awards Georgia Tech over $759,000 to Assess Health and Environmental Impacts of Biotechnology Products
ATLANTA (July 22, 2021) – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) will receive $759,980 of the $3,041,583 total funding to five institutions to develop science-based approaches to evaluate the potential human health and environmental impacts of new biotechnology products.
“EPA is funding this research to better understand advancements in biotechnology, which have many potential benefits for society, and to ensure public health and environmental protection,” said Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development and the EPA Science Advisor.
“This award helps researchers at Georgia Tech develop approaches for evaluating impacts of new biotechnology products,” said Acting Region 4 Administrator John Blevins. “The results of work done under these grants is critical for ensuring that innovations in the biotechnology field are safe and won’t have adverse impacts on public health.”
“The Environmental Microbial Genomics laboratory (http://enve-omics.gatech.edu) has been developing novel metagenomics and associated bioinformatics methods to identify and track microorganisms in environmental or clinical samples for more than a decade,” said Dr. Kostas Konstantinidis, the Richard C. Tucker Professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Civil & Environmental Engineering. “We, together with our partners at Morehouse College, are looking forward to applying these and developing new methodologies to track genetically recoded organisms and identify their impacts -if any- on autochthonous (natural) freshwater microbial communities, using controlled laboratory chambers.”
Georgia Tech will use this grant to develop a method to track genetically recoded organisms and assess their impacts on natural microbes found in freshwater.
Each research team is receiving a grant of up to $760,000 through EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program. Their projects will lead to the development of tools and methods that allow decision makers to better understand and monitor how biotechnology products might impact public health and the environment before they are used or released into the environment.
The other four recipients receiving today’s funding through EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program include:
- University of California, San Diego, Calif., to develop an approach to understand and effectively monitor the dispersal of lab-generated sterile mosquitoes in the Hawaiian Islands.
- University of Colorado, Boulder, Colo., to create software tools to quantify and predict the effects of synthetic microorganisms on local, native, microbial communities.
- Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., to develop an auto destruction switch for genetically engineered microorganisms and a system to ensure lab observations can match field predictions.
- Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Mass., to test soils and natural soil microbes for their effects on synthetic microorganisms, and for potential containment functions.
Background on STAR Program
EPA’s STAR Program aims to stimulate and support scientific and engineering research that advances EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment. It is a competitive, peer-reviewed, extramural research program that provides access to the nation’s best scientists and engineers in academic and other nonprofit research institutions. The STAR program funds research on the environmental and public health effects of air quality, climate change, environmental justice, water quality and quantity, hazardous waste, toxic substances, and pesticides.
For more information on EPA’s STAR recipients: https://cfpub.epa.gov/ncer_abstracts/index.cfm/fuseaction/recipients.display/rfa_id/663/records_per_page/ALL
For more information on EPA’s Chemical Safety for Sustainability research program