science policy (see Appendix A). The committee was charged to address three specific questions that are highlighted below. In response to its charge, the committee reviewed the Genomics: GTL roadmap and heard from representatives of DOE, scientists who are involved in the program, scientists who conduct research relevant to DOE’s mission goals but are not involved in the program, and representatives of other federal agencies that have genomics programs (see Appendix B). This summary is structured as a response to the questions in the charge and includes the committee’s recommendations.
Question 1: Is the Genomics: GTL program, as currently designed, scientifically and technically well tailored to the challenges faced by the DOE in energy technology development and environmental remediation?
Answer 1: Yes, the use of systems and synthetic biology approaches in the Genomics: GTL program to address some of the most pressing issues in microbial genomics relevant to DOE’s mission in energy security, environmental remediation, and carbon cycling and sequestration is not only appropriate but necessary. The study of individual components only does not provide knowledge on systems integration at the level of pathways, organisms, and microbial consortia—for example, on the effects of introducing new metabolites or new or engineered organisms to a community or on organism or community responses. Systems biology research is needed to develop models for predicting the behavior of complex biological systems, to engineer microorganisms for bioremediation and energy-related needs, and to understand carbon cycling.
Current and planned research of the Genomics: GTL program promises to provide the predictive understanding of microorganisms needed to
Develop affordable and reliable carbon-neutral energy alternatives from plants and microorganisms.
Develop biological solutions to the many recalcitrant problems of legacy wastes.
Increase understanding of the role of microbial communities in global carbon cycling to enable the development of carbon-sequestration techniques for addressing climate change.
The committee endorses DOE’s use of a systems approach to achieve its mission goals through Genomics: GTL and supports its plan to enlarge funding of the program to $200 million per year for basic research. The committee suggests