WASHINGTON, DC — In the hope of building better microbes for use in environmental cleanup and efficient energy production, the US Department of Energy (DOE) recently awarded $103 million in multi-year grants to five US institutions for the study of gene networks and microbial biological systems. The grants, part of the 10-year Genome to Life Project, were announced 23 July.

"This is the first major step to doing systems biology," David Thomassen, program coordinator for biological and environmental research at the DOE, told The Scientist. While academic, government and industry labs have all heralded so-called 'systems biology' as the major challenge in the wake of multiple sequencing projects, he said, very little systems biology research is actually taking place.

"The rationale," Thomassen said, "is that if we can understand whole systems rather than just pieces of systems, we can develop much more powerful strategies for using those biological...

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