Energy department's Idaho lab teams with Russia to establish Ecological Biotrade facility

November 14, 2000

The Department of Energy's (DOE) Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) and four Russian biological institutes today announced plans to work with Diversa Corporation to establish a Russian Ecological Biotrade Center to explore that country's biodiversity potential for developing important new commercial products.

The effort is part of the Department of Energy's Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention (IPP) program, which engages former Soviet research organizations and scientists to ensure that weapons of mass destruction expertise does not leak to countries of proliferation concern. The center, the first of its kind in Russia, will employ former Soviet weapons scientists who will partner with U.S. Energy Department laboratories and U.S. private industry to work on new non-weapons-related research projects that seek to commercialize biomolecular products.

"Through the collaboration of scientific institutes in Russia, the Energy Department's national labs and the private sector, we are making great strides to redirect former Soviet weapons expertise towards peaceful activities," said Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson. "We are promoting scientific and commercial use of Russia's natural resources in a manner that is environmentally sound. The creation of the ecological center is an exceptional opportunity for participants on all sides."

The Russian institutes participating with the INEEL include the State Research Center for Applied Microbiology, the All Russian Institute of Phytopathology, the Institute of Biochemistry and Physiology of Microorganisms, and the Research Center of Toxicology and Hygienic Regulation of Biopreparations. The self-sustainable ecological center will allow scientists to discover novel bioactive compounds from selected pristine and contaminated environments in Russia. New products and services, involving the use of these compounds would be marketed domestically and internationally.

The Department of Energy will provide $1 million towards this two-year project with additional funding from Diversa Corporation who signed a cooperative research and development agreement Monday.

The goal of the collaborative research is to use biomolecular techniques to evaluate the range, extent and potential value of Russia's microbial diversity, according to Rob Rogers, the INEEL's principal project investigator. Working in close cooperation, Russian, INEEL and industry partner scientists will begin to conduct a molecular survey of the diversity of the microorganisms found within selected Russian ecosystems.

"It is the goal of this project to identify commercial biomolecular products that will provide revenue to make the ecological center self-sustaining after DOE funding ends," says Bill Toth, IPP program manager for the INEEL.

The Energy Department's Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention biological program has engaged 20 biological institutes and almost 600 scientists, approved more than 55 projects, and allocated over $12 million for collaboration with former biological weapons facilities. The program funds peaceful research by former Soviet weapon scientists, in cooperation with DOE national laboratories and U.S. industry partners. Projects are selected for their commercial potential and are intended to lead to long-term employment for former Soviet weapons specialists, while also providing U.S. industry participants with new sources of technological innovation.
-end-
Media contacts: Teri Ehresman, INEEL, 208-526-7785, ehr@inel.gov
Tamara Hamilton, DOE-HQ, 202-586-5806, tamara.hamilton@hq.doe.gov

DOE/Idaho National Laboratory

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