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Jay Keasling wins Heinz Award
Date:9/12/2012

Humanitarian Award from the Biotechnology Industry Organization. He has since been applying these same tools of synthetic biology to the development of advanced biofuels - liquid transportation fuels derived from the solar energy stored in the cellulosic biomass of non-food plants and agricultural waste. The goal is to provide the United States with clean, green and renewable transportation energy that will create jobs and boost the economy.

"Artemisinin is a hydrocarbon and we built a microbial platform to produce it," Keasling has said. "We can remove a few of the genes to take out artemisinin and put in a different set of genes to make biofuels."

Last year, Keasling and his colleagues at JBEI achieved a major milestone in the development of advanced biofuels when they engineered the world's first strains of E. coli bacteria that can digest switchgrass biomass and synthesize its sugars into either gasoline, diesel or jet fuels. Unlike ethanol, the advanced biofuels that Keasling's microbes synthesize can replace gasoline on a gallon-for-gallon basis, and can be used in today's engines and infrastructures. These microbes should also be able to one day manufacture other petroleum-based chemicals in addition to fuels.

"Synthetic biology is revolutionizing the way we produce medicine, energy and chemicals. What once seemed impossible is now a reality," Keasling said. "Imagine if all the products now made from petroleum were made from sugar. By applying synthetic biology, the process to create fuels, components of plastic, medicines and more would instead be non-polluting and nearly carbon-neutral, decreasing the production of greenhouse gas and environmental pollution."


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Contact: Lynn Yarris
lcyarris@lbl.gov
510-486-5375
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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