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$2.3 Million Will Boost WSU Plant Oils Research

PULLMAN, Wash., — An innovative new research alliance involving Washington State University could lead to scientific breakthroughs that will allow oil from crops to replace some petroleum fuels and lubricants, and petroleum-based chemicals in the production of many plastics.

The Dow Chemical Company and Dow AgroSciences LLC has committed more than $10 million to fund research at Michigan State University, Miami University, Washington State University and the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory. The partnership represents the second largest public/private consortium ever created for agricultural biotechnology research.

WSU will receive approximately $2.3 million to fund its portion of the research. Funds will support five post doctoral scientists in the WSU Institute of Biological Chemistry for research aimed at the creation of new industrial products from agricultural plants and to improve the nutritional content for certain plant oils.

Scientists will pool their expertise to improve specific oils and fatty acid traits of soybeans, canola, unflower and other crops. The new technology that will be created may also lead to cheaper or better-performing oils for human consumption, such as cooking oils, margarine and other food products.

If successful, the research would create new markets for regional crops and provide a boost for the agricultural economy.

“I am very excited to be helping to launch this new initiative in oilseed engineering,” said John Browse, who will direct the work in WSU’s Institute of Biological Chemistry. “The generous resources provided by The Dow Chemical Company and Dow AgroSciences will complement and extend our current research on the synthesis of vegetable oils in plants and take this research to a new level of understanding and practicality.”

“I look forward to the day when we can provide, on the one hand healthier food oils and on the other hand alternative, environmentally friendly ways to produce plastics, resins and other chemical products that enhance people’s lives.” WSU researchers have a well established track record in biotechnology research, said Norman Lewis, IBC director. “We are pleased that WSU has been recognized as having the capabilities to be a major player in this groundbreaking research.”

Media Contacts: John Browse, 509-335-2293; jab@wsu.edu, Hugh Imhof, Washington State University News Service, 509-335-4528, Cell, 509-979-0795

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