Loyola University Chicago

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

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Chemistry professors will use NSF grant to research sustainable energy sources

Chemistry professors will use NSF grant to research sustainable energy sources

Ribbon illustration of the ADP-glucose pyrophosphorylase enzyme. An NSF grant will allow Dr. Ballicora and Dr. Liu to study the regulation of this enzyme family, which is the building block for further creation of starch used in biofuel production.

Miguel Ballicora, associate professor and assistant chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, has received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to be used over the next three years. The award of over $600,000 will support research on ADP-glucose pyrophosphorylase, an enzyme responsible for the production of glycogen in bacteria and starch in plants. The conducted research will investigate the bacterial enzyme and its evolution, which has great potential to be used in the future to improve crops or algae for biofuel production.

“Starch is one of the most important sources of calories for human nutrition, and its crop yield is dependent on the processing of this enzyme,” says Ballicora. “Since some of those crops are also used for the production of biofuels, it will be critical in the near future to enhance the production of starch to satisfy both nutritional and energetic demands of our society.”

This research, he explains, could also impact the future development of biofuels and will help improve sustainable energy sources thus, having a significant impact on our society’s natural resource supply. Dr. Ballicora will work with Dr. Dali Liu, associate professor, and a team of graduate and undergraduate students, to analyze the enzymes in the laboratories of Flanner Hall. This December, an Argentinian scholar from Universidad Nacional del Litoral will visit to help support their research.