Jumpstarting the
Bio-based Economy

Ongoing research in basic photosynthetic biology is essential for growing the emerging bio-based economy. The sun delivers approximately 86,000 terawatts of energy to Earth per year. Learning how to transform a mere fraction of this energy into food, sustainable fuel, medicines, and biomaterials for clothing and shelter would reduce the world’s dependence on fossil fuels and enhance the quality of life on a global scale. UC San Diego’s Photosynthetic Biology Institute (PBI), now in the planning stages, boldly addresses these vital concerns.

The Photosynthetic Biology Institute (PBI) at UC San Diego will integrate the research efforts of plant scientists within the Division of Biological Sciences and across campus with other key disciplines, including biochemistry, bioinformatics, bioengineering, and biomedical sciences. The institute will establish UC San Diego as a premier international center of excellence in advanced photosynthetic biology research, cultivate academic-industry partnerships, and license new technologies.

Photosynthesis, which uses energy from sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into organic compounds, is arguably the most important biological process on Earth. Natural photosynthesis is a relatively inefficient process, however, and photosynthetic biology research could vastly improve the outcomes.

PBI will establish UC San Diego as a premier international center of excellence in advanced photosynthetic biology research, cultivate academic-industry partnerships, and license
new technologies.

Most agricultural plants today, especially those in the temperate zones of the United States, undergo photorespiration, which wastes much of the plants’ natural photosynthetic energy. Plant scientists at UC San Diego are seeking ways to control photosynthesis—and to use the basic biology, chemistry, and physics of photosynthesis for other purposes. A better understanding of photosynthetic processes could lead to increased crop yields of food, fiber, wood, and fuel; ways to sustain arable lands; methods of collecting and using solar energy more efficiently; and new biomedical breakthroughs.

Science has only recently developed the basic tools and techniques needed to investigate the intricate details of photosynthetic biology. The work ahead has many challenges, from designing new plant crops and controlling pests to large-scale bioenergy production technologies that are themselves “green.” As a global leader in plant science and the study of climate change, UC San Diego is up to the task.