Research Group

Ben Gurion University:

Prof. Sammy Boussiba (Head), Dr. Simon Barak, Prof. Naftali Lazarovitch,

Prof. Moshe Sagi

Weizmann Institute:

Prof. Avi Levy (Head), Prof. Asaph Aharoni, Prof. Avihai Danon, Prof. Gad Galili,

Prof. Avigdor Scherz


Prof. Shimon Gepstein



The research group is exploiting recent advances in metabolomics, genetics, genomics and agrotechniques to develop plants, algae and cyanobacteria (genetically selected or engineered) for the large-scale production (under conventional or dryland growth conditions) of energy-rich biomass as a biofuel feedstock. 


Scientific Background

The advantages of biofuels over fossil fuel are that they are renewable and that the photosynthetic organisms that produce them fix the carbon emitted upon combustion. Large-scale production of biofuel is hindered, however, by several problems and limitations (e.g., the need for genetic adaptation, the lack of arable land, competition with food crops, pollution, water availability, and global warming).

These problems can be overcome in a number of ways:

  • Through the genetic development of plants and algae that produce high yields of energy-rich biomass
  • Through the utilization of plant biomass waste (e.g., straw, or forest and municipal waste)
  • By the expanding cultivation of biofuel crops to dryland areas.


Recent advances in the fields of metabolomics, genomics, and robotics, together with the unique biodiversity available in Israel and new farming methods, creates the promise of the economically viable production of energy-rich biomass and hence of biofuel.


The Objectives

The overall goal is to develop novel platforms for energy-rich biomass production.

The specific objectives are:

(1) The analysis and design of metabolic pathways to engineer and optimize photosynthetic organisms whose biomass can serve as energy-rich feedstock for biofuel production.

(2) The development of plants efficient in biomass yield and optimized for biofuel production under normal conditions or on drylands, using natural biodiversity resources, genetics, genomics, and genetically engineered species.

(3) The identification and engineering of microalgae effective in oil production.

(4) The development of optimal sustainable cultivation technologies for plants and algae for large-scale biofuel feedstock production under normal, dry, saline and high temperature environments.


Expected Results

(1) New methods for carbohydrates and lipids analysis and screening

(2) Engineered plants, algae and cyanobacteria with new metabolic pathways for biofuel production

(3) New genes for metabolic engineering and for growth under extreme conditions

(4) New methods for large-scale algal production

(5) Cultivation of endemic species and ecosystems for high biomass production in drylands.


Supported by the I-CORE Program of the Planning and Budgeting Committee and The Israel Science Foundation

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