Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Washington University in St. Louis is one of five institutions to receive a total of $3,041,583 in funding to develop science-based approaches to evaluate the potential human health and environmental impacts of new biotechnology products.
Washington University has received $744,262 to develop an “auto destruction switch” for genetically engineered microorganisms and a system to ensure lab observations can match field predictions.
“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 EPA Science Advisor.
“Washington University is pushing science forward with this biotechnology research,” said Acting Region 7 Administrator Edward H. Chu. “Genetically engineered microbes have a lot of potential in naturally break down pollutants and the research Dr. Tae Seok Moon and his team are doing will help ensure that the solutions used in future applications are both responsible, effective and protective of human health.”
“Our project will provide novel technologies that minimize the risks associated with environmental applications of genetically engineered microbes to ensure their biocontainment and public safety,” said Dr. Tae Seok Moon, associate professor in the Department of Energy, Environmental and Chemical Engineering at Washington University.
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 funding recipients are:
- Georgia Tech, Atlanta – to develop a method to track genetically recoded organisms and assess their impacts on natural microbes found in freshwater.
- University of California, San Diego – to develop an approach to understand and effectively monitor the dispersal of lab-generated sterile mosquitoes in the Hawaiian Islands.
- University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado – to create software tools to quantify and predict the effects of synthetic microorganisms on local, native, microbial communities.
- Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Massachusetts – 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, visit EPA’s website.
Learn more about EPA’s Chemical Safety for Sustainability Research Program