January 27, 2010
A collaboration led by UC Berkeley Professor of Bioengineering and Chemical Engineering Jay Keasling, and by bioengineering graduate student Eric Steen, has developed a microbe that can produce an advanced biofuel directly from biomass.
Deploying the tools of synthetic biology, the researchers engineered a strain of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria to produce biodiesel fuel and other important chemicals derived from fatty acids.
The collaboration was made up of a team from the Joint BioEnergy Institute’s Fuels Synthesis Division that included Eric Steen, Yisheng Kang and Gregory Bokinsky, and a team from LS9, a privately-held industrial biotechnology firm based in South San Francisco. The LS9 team was headed by Stephen del Cardayre and included Zhihao Hu, Andreas Schirmer and Amy McClure. The collaboration has published their results in the January 28, 2010 edition of the journal Nature in a paper titled, “Microbial Production of Fatty Acid-Derived Fuels and Chemicals from Plant Biomass.”
“The fact that our microbes can produce a diesel fuel directly from biomass with no additional chemical modifications is exciting and important,” says Jay Keasling, the Chief Executive Officer for JBEI, and a leading scientific authority on synthetic biology. “Given that the costs of recovering biodiesel are nowhere near the costs required to distill ethanol, we believe our results can significantly contribute to the ultimate goal of producing scalable and cost effective advanced biofuels and renewable chemicals.”
Read the full story at Lawrence Berkeley Lab.