The Department of Energy (DOE), through its Office of Science Biological and Environmental Research (BER), Life Sciences subprogram, strives to deliver fundamental knowledge of biological systems that can be used to address DOE needs in clean energy, carbon sequestration, and environmental cleanup. Fundamental research is supported in structural biology, genomics, and the health effects of low dose radiation. Human, animal, and microbial DNA sequencing is used to understand the genetic and environmental basis of normal and abnormal biological function, from human genes that make some people more sensitive to the adverse effects of low doses of radiation to the biochemical capabilities of complex microbial communities that could be used to produce clean energy or sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Scientific tools and resources are developed and made widely available for determining protein structures and genomic DNA sequences and for understanding the structure, function, and regulation of multiprotein complexes from DOE-relevant organisms – information that can then be used to develop biotechnology solutions for DOE needs. Finally, low dose radiation research provides knowledge underpinning rigorous, cost-effective standards to protect the health of cleanup workers and the public and for science-based decisions on DOE site cleanup. BER supports research in five areas of the Life Sciences: structural biology; low dose radiation; molecular/systems biology; human genome; and biological research.
BER’s Life Sciences research is conducted at a large number of universities. For example research is conducted in support of high-throughput human DNA sequencing at the Joint Genome Institutes, on the sequencing of entire microbial genomes with value to the DOE mission, to understand the molecular control of genes and gene pathways in microbes, on the use of model organisms to understand and characterize the human genome, and on the molecular mechanisms of cell responses to low doses of radiation.