MIDLAND, Mich. and EAST LANSING, Mich. — An
innovative research alliance is joining scientists
from private industry and the public sector to
create new industrial products from agricultural
plants, rather than petrochemical plants, and to
improve nutritional content for certain plant oils.

Through the Oilseed Engineering Alliance,
announced today between The Dow Chemical
Company, Dow AgroSciences LLC, Michigan
State University, Miami University, Washington
State University and the U.S. Department of
Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory,
researchers are pooling their expertise to improve
specific oils and fatty acid traits of soybeans,
canola, sunflower and other crops.

Dow Chemical and Dow AgroSciences are
committing more than $10 million to the Oilseed
Engineering Alliance over a five-year period to hire
additional researchers and fund new initiatives.

“By making plant-oil based raw materials a
workable choice for some types of chemical and
plastics production, we could encourage their use
as more sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels for
producing a variety of useful, everyday products,”
says R.M. Gross, vice president and director of
research and development, The Dow Chemical
Company. “There is also potential to improve
environmental profiles for some industrial
processes and enhance nutritional content for
these oils as well as uncovering additional,
innovative uses for them.”

The Oilseed Engineering Alliance makes a team
effort out of long-standing individual research
programs. According to John Ohlrogge and Mike
Pollard, professors of botany and plant pathology
at Michigan State — the project’s coordinating
university — the key to the research is the idea that
plants can easily perform chemistry that is difficult
for chemists using traditional methods.

The research will aim to coax plants to produce
fatty acids and oils that are more stable and better
suited to manufacturing and nutritional needs. It
also could make the plant oils easier to extract,
and therefore less expensive, so they can be
competitive with petroleum-based products. It’s a
matter of combining nature’s effectiveness with
technology’s efficiency to encourage sustainability.

“We wanted to get the best available people in the
world to tackle these areas,” Ohlrogge says. “Only
by gathering these people to work together would
we have the critical mass needed to make things

Each individual Alliance researcher brings specific
expertise and skills to the project. Dow Chemical
and Dow AgroSciences add a better
understanding of marketplace needs and expertise
in processing and commercialization required to
bring about competitively priced products based
on renewable resources.

“The Oilseed Engineering Alliance represents a
commitment by Dow Chemical, Dow
AgroSciences, and Alliance members to achieve
breakthrough thinking in the field of plant-derived
oils,” says David Rowe global business leader of
Value-Added Grains for Dow AgroSciences. “We
are looking for a new horizon of possibilities where
plant-derived oils deliver new solutions to
important problems in nutrition, health care and
material science.”


Brookhaven National Laboratory

“This partnership is an exciting opportunity for me. I
am enthusiastic about participating in this effort to
define the basic science that underlies carbon
partitioning in seeds. If successful, these studies
may lead to improved crops that will be able to
produce renewable sources of materials currently
obtained from petrochemicals. The production of
these materials by plants is driven by sunlight and
results in essentially no waste products. This would
provide a remarkable capability to achieve
favorable environmental performance with low
energy use and limited to no waste streams.”

John Shanklin, PhD, biochemist
Brookhaven National Laboratory

Miami University

“The opportunity to be a part of the Oilseed
Engineering Alliance is exciting for a number of
reasons. To begin with, the Alliance consists of five
principal investigators, all accomplished in their
own right, pooling their complementary expertise to
attack problems which would be very difficult, if not
impossible, to do individually. Dow is funding this
at a level that will allow us to carry out the best
science we can with a cadre of bright post docs.
The relationship that the Alliance has with Dow is
also worth noting. I believe that this is only the
beginning of a fruitful scientific relationship in which
we end up with quite a major effort to maximize the
potential of oilseed engineering.”

Jan Jaworski, PhD
Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Miami University

Washington State University

“I am very excited to be helping to launch this new
initiative in oilseed engineering. 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.”

John Browse, PhD
Washington State University

For More Information:

Michigan State University
Lisa Rudgers, (517) 353-7958

The Dow Chemical Company
Adrianne Proctor, (517) 636-5636

EDITOR’S NOTE: Contacts for other Alliance
participants are as follows.

Dow AgroSciences: Christine Kirby, (317)
Miami University: Claire Wagner, (513) 529-7592
Washington State University: Terence L. Day,
(509) 335-2930 w, (509) 334-1619 h
Brookhaven National Laboratory: Diane
Greenberg, (631) 344-2347

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