EPA awards over $300,000 to University of Colorado Boulder to develop biotechnology software tools
University one of five institutions nationwide receiving funding towards research to assess health and environmental impacts of biotechnology products
Boulder, Colo. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced $337,616 to the University of Colorado Boulder to create software tools to quantify and predict the effects of synthetic microorganisms on local, native and microbial communities. Last week, EPA announced $3,041,583 in 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.
University of Colorado Boulder’s investigative team will use the funding to develop and deploy a Python-based bioinformatic tool called EcoGenoRisk. The software tool will help develop an ecological risk assessment by comparing databases of novel synthetic biological organisms to known local, native and microbial organism communities. The team will develop EcoGenoRisk as an open-source tool so that users may incorporate the software and approach into other bioinformatic pipelines and link with existing EPA ecological risk assessment tools.
“Developing techniques that better identify risks associated with synthetic biology organisms informs both product design and appropriate disposal processes for a new material,” said Dr. Cresten Mansfeldt, principal investigator on the grant and assistant professor in Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. “Uniquely, the identical genomic information and databases that are driving this biotechnological product evolution can be mined to identify and mitigate potential risks to our built and natural environments.”
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.
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