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Recap of SD-CAP Algal Biofuels Symposium 2010: Research Dynamics.

Last week, I had the fortune of attending the Algal Biofuels Symposium held by the San Diego Algae Biotechnology Center which was founded by Professor Mayfield and his colleagues. The next few posts will focus on what happened at this symposium.


The introductions were held by Professor Steve Kay, who is the Dean of Biology at the University of California, San Diego. Professor Kay noted that algal research has been steadily rising since the early 1990s again. Since the 2000s the growth curve of algal research resembles that of an early exponential growth as determined by number of publications with the keyword "algae". Key to this resurgence in algal research has been the advance of technologies in molecular biology, sequencing, and bioinformatics. Of note is that there has been an explosion in algal biofuels research since late 2008. The exponential growth exponential growth in algal research coincides with the onset of algal biofuels research significantly helped by significant increases in grants for biofuels development.

Professor Key then asked the question how an algal R&D pipeline can be built? A stable political framework that does not depend on the moods of each administration (see the changes in funding priorities from President Ford to President Reagan). It takes stable long-term commitment, and this long-term commitment should be funneled through the DOE, NSF, and USDA. Recent funding increases to these funding organizations as well as the structural reorganization initiated by Energy Secretary Steve Chu have been helpful in this regard. All this leaves the algal research community full of hope and energy for the future.

On a personal note, despite the impressive relative growth, even at the current maximum, there have only been 2000 publications in 2009 which is dwarfed by the number of publications in DNA replication or just yeast in the same year. This is not meant as a derogatory comment, but serves to emphasize that the algal research field is still at its inception. And this means that there is lot of growth potential.

The complete presentation can be obtained at the following location:

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