Experts Make Case for Development and Sustainability of Bioenergy at International Workshop in FUTA

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Experts and Researchers from various institutions and organizations have reiterated the need to develop renewable energy sources that are environmentally friendly and sustainable. That was the consensus of views at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology ICGGB Course, “Laboratory Techniques in Molecular Biology and Enzyme Engineering for Sustainable Bio-energy: from Theory to Bench,” which held at the Federal University of Technology Akure, FUTA between September 26 and 30, 2022.

Presenting the keynote address, Director General/CEO, National Biotechnology Development Agency NABDA represented by the Deputy Director NABDA, Dr. Shakirat Ajenifuja-Solebo, said the course was important because of the obvious need to urgently change the course of the global energy production and consumption, the most recent occurrences of extreme weather conditions experienced in different regions of the world. It was stressed that the Ukraine-Russian war has had far reaching effects on global politics and economy, energy demand   and supply. The Director General pointed out that in 2026, annual global demand for biofuels is set to reach 186 billion liters representing 28% growth. He said that biofuels produced from wastes, residues and dedicated crops that do not compete with food crops make up 45 % of biofuels estimated to be consumed in 2030.

He however raised a concern that fossil fuel will increasingly play a significant role in meeting local energy demands in Nigeria contrary to the trends in other regions of the world, adding that Nigeria’s scenario can change if it harnesses local bioenergy capacities and appropriate technologies such as biotechnology in a sustainable manner that will also mitigate climate change. Highlighting the advantages of renewable energy, he said it will cut carbon emissions massively, help in waste management and help overcome critical bottlenecks in biofuel production. These according to him are the pointers on the need for self-sufficiency in renewable energy production for sovereign nation.

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Adenike Oladiji, represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor Development, Professor Phillip Oguntunde said the course was very relevant at this time when there is increasing demand for  safe energy, particularly renewable energy not just in Africa but globally due to increasing human population, urbanization, industrialization and adverse effects of climate change. She said ‘’ at the moment ,greater amount of energy generated worldwide comes from fossil fuel, the leading cause of ozone layer depletion and climate change.”

Professor Oladiji called on agencies, private and public institutions to leverage on the competencies and exposure of researchers in FUTA and other research organizations by spearheading cutting edge researches in different thematic areas that would proffer indigenous solutions to various challenges facing the country and the world at large.

In her remarks the convener, Fulbright scholar and Principal Investigator  and Head , Enzyme and Environmental Biotechnology  Laboratory, ,E-Biotech Lab, FUTA, Professor Folasade Olajuyigbe said, as global need for energy grows, research interests now focus on developing clean fuel initiatives, creating awareness among the public about bioenergy research ,energy and sustainability issues affecting our planet. She said globally, bioenergy research institutes and laboratories continue to advertise for collaboration, postdoctoral positions and researchers to combine their expertise, skills and exchange ideas to accelerate the process of discovering and developing advanced biofuels that can replace gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Professor Olajuyigbe said the workshop enabled participants to explore ways of producing sustainable biofuels.

The workshop exposed participants to laboratory-based course with various lectures followed by laboratory practical sessions. Some of the highlights include  lecture on “Cell-free synthetic biology as a platform for rapid enzyme engineering” delivered by Dr. Jenny Molloy, a Senior Research Associate at the Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Cambridge, UK, with lectures by highly-ranked global scientists including Dr. Syed Shams Yazdani of ICGEB, New Delhi, India who delivered a lecture on “Fungal genetic engineering to produce enzymes for 2G Biofuels”, Dr. Alfred Fernandez Castane of Aston University, Birmingham, UK spoke on “Recombinant production of enzymes: cloning to high cell density cultivation” while Dr. Olusola Ogunyewo, a co-organizer of the course and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Berkeley, California, USA delivered a lecture on “Bioinformatics tools for DNA/protein sequence analysis: Primer design and Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)” and “Genome Editing Techniques in Molecular Biology”.

The lectures were followed by hands-on laboratory sessions on the isolation of DNA from bacteria cells and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). All the participants analyzed the quality of isolated DNA with agarose gel electrophoresis and prepared samples for PCR. Other laboratory sessions were on SDS-Polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis of protein, and immobilization of enzymes for improved functionality.

At the closing ceremony of the Workshop, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Oladiji, emphasized the importance of effective and sustainable cross discipline collaboration in all fields to enhance technology and proffer solution to societal challenges.

She said, “let us develop cross university, cross institution and cross discipline collaborations. We need ourselves to develop across the continent of Africa and by extension globally. We gain more when we attend multidisciplinary workshops and conferences like this. Let the relationship established here be sustained. It’s all about networking. We can even meet virtually as I believe lessons learnt and knowledge shared at this workshop will be useful for you all as individuals and also impact your various organizations. Kindly share and spread your experiences beyond here and through that Nigeria, Africa and the world will be better.”

Professor Olajuyigbe of FUTA’s Department of Biochemistry won the highly competitive grant to host the Course in Nigeria from the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) based in Italy.

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