Joint BioEnergy Institute team engineers E. coli to overproduce diesel-range methyl ketones; may be appropriate for blendstock

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have engineered Escherichia coli bacteria to overproduce saturated and monounsaturated aliphatic methyl ketones in the C11 to C15 (diesel) range from glucose. In subsequent tests, these methyl ketones yielded high cetane numbers, making them promising candidates for the... Read more →


Design-driven engineering process. Coarse-grained mechanistic modeling identifies design parameters to produce targeted device outputs. Components meeting the design specifications are then engineered and individually characterized. Transcripts are designed with kinetic RNA folding simulations, enabling the assembly of component parts into physical devices. Finally, device functions predicted from the parameter inputs... Read more →


Sapphire Energy demonstrates external assembly and modification of the chloroplast genome from algae; a pathway to commercially viable algal biofuel

In an open access paper published in the journal Nucleic Acids Research, scientists at Sapphire Energy report on a hybrid yeast-bacteria methodology for cloning and modifying the chloroplast genome from the green alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, and then inserting it into algae. The chloroplast—the site of photosynthesis—is responsible for producing organic... Read more →


Global Bioenergies and LanzaTech to collaborate to assess the bioproduction of isobutene from carbon monoxide

Global Bioenergies S.A. and LanzaTech Ltd, two industrial biology companies, have begun a feasibility study to examine whether Global Bioenergies’ artificial isobutene pathway (earlier post), can be functionally transferred into LanzaTech’s carbon monoxide-using organism (earlier post). Isobutene is a widely used intermediate chemical used for the production of fuel additives,... Read more →


Synthetic Genomics Inc. and Plenus, S.A. de C.V. form agricultural biotech company Agradis, Inc.; focus on new and improved biofuel feedstock crops and food crops

Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI) and Plenus, S.A. de C.V., a Mexico-based investing and management company, are forming a new agricultural biotechnology company, Agradis. Agradis will focus on developing and commercializing products to sustainably improve crop production efficiency using genomics and plant breeding. Agradis also announced the closing of a $20-million... Read more →


Chemical structures of fuels. Bisabolane (2); Hexadecane (3), a representative molecule for diesel; farnesane (4); and methyl palmiate (5), a representative molecule for fatty acid methyl esters. Source: Peralta-Yahya et al. Click to enlarge. A team from the US Department of Energy (DOE) Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) has identified a... Read more →


Comparison of n-alcohols synthesis via the fatty acid biosynthesis pathway (top) and the engineered reversal of the β-oxidation cycle (bottom). Dellomonaco et al. Click to enlarge. Rice University engineering researchers have developed a new method for rapidly converting glucose into biofuels and renewable petrochemical substitutes by reversing the ubiquitous β-oxidation... Read more →


Joule awarded two patents for high-volume production of ethanol from sunlight and CO2; targeting 10X yield per acre over cellulosic ethanol, 100X over corn ethanol

Joule Unlimited Technologies, a bioengineering startup leveraging highly engineered photosynthetic organisms to catalyze the conversion of sunlight and CO2 to fuels and chemicals, has been awarded its first two US patents covering its fundamental method for producing ethanol at volumes and efficiencies surpassing biomass-dependent processes. Joule is developing pathways and... Read more →


An international team of researchers led by George Church, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, in collaboration with Joe Jacobson, an associate professor at the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has developed genome engineering technologies that are capable of fundamentally re-engineering genomes from the nucleotide to... Read more →


Conceptual sketch of future metabolomics challenges and opportunities from May 2010 NSF-JST workshop on metabolomics. Click to enlarge. The US National Science Foundation (NSF) and Japan Science and Technology Agency (NSF-JST) have launched a joint program, Metabolomics for a Low Carbon Society (METABOLOMICS), and are soliciting research projects. The goal... Read more →


The future of engineered biocatalysts. Pathways, enzymes, and genetic controls are designed from characteristics of parts. The chromosomes encoding those elements are synthesized and incorporated into a ghost envelope to obtain the new catalyst. The design of the engineered catalyst is influenced by the desired product and the production process.... Read more →


Amyris reprograms yeast to produce targeted molecules via fermentation. One possible products, farnesene, can be a diesel precursor. Source: Amyris. Click to enlarge. Amyris, Inc. has entered into a contract manufacturing agreement with Tate & Lyle Ingredients Americas, Inc., an affiliate of Tate & Lyle PLC. Under this arrangement, Tate... Read more →


Bio Architecture Lab and Statoil Partner to Commercialize Macroalgae-to-Ethanol Process in Norway

Bio Architecture Lab (BAL), a synthetic biology and enzyme design company focused on the production of biofuels and biochemicals from macroalgae (seaweed), and Statoil, one of the world’s largest offshore oil and gas producers, have formed wide-ranging strategic partnership for the production of ethanol derived from macroalgae grown off the... Read more →


Joule Awarded Patent on Renewable Diesel Production Directly from Sunlight and CO2

Joule Unlimited, Inc., has been awarded a US patent covering its conversion of sunlight and waste carbon dioxide directly into liquid hydrocarbons that are fungible with conventional diesel fuel. Joule is the first to achieve and patent a direct, single-step, continuous process for the production of hydrocarbon fuels requiring no... Read more →


NSF Awards RAPID Response Grant to Modular Genetics and University Collaborators to Develop Bio-Dispersants for Oil Spill Clean-Up

The US National Science Foundation has awarded a one-year, $200,000 RAPID Response grant to synthetic biology company Modular Genetics, Inc. and scientists and engineers at Columbia University, Iowa State University (ISU) and the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center to support work on production and testing of bio-dispersants that can replace... Read more →


The new greenhouse. Click to enlarge. ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics (SGI) have opened a new greenhouse facility at SGI headquarters in La Jolla, CA enabling the next level of research and testing in their algae biofuels program announced last July. (Earlier post.) The new facility, opened at a ceremony today... Read more →


Amyris’ technology platform modifies microorganisms to leverage an isoprenoid biosynthetic pathway to produce a large variety of product molecules from sugar. Source: Amyris. Click to enlarge. Amyris, Inc. has entered into an off-take agreement with Shell for the supply of Amyris No Compromise diesel. The parties have agreed to the... Read more →


Amyris engineers microbes to convert sugar to hydrocarbon fuels. Micrograph of fermentation fluids from production of Amyris Renewable Diesel (Nov 2007). Source: Amyris. Click to enlarge. France-based Total, a major international oil and gas company, and synthetic biology company Amyris Inc., have entered into a strategic partnership encompassing Total’s investment... Read more →


Biohydrocarbon Fuel Company LS9 Wins Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award

LS9, a synthetic biology company developing fermentation-derived drop-in renewable fuels and chemicals (earlier post), has won a 2010 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for its “Renewable Petroleum” technology that converts sustainable, plant-based materials into low-carbon fuels and chemicals. LS9 modifies the ACP pathway in bacteria to produce renewable hydrocarbon fuels... Read more →


Self-replicating synthetic bacteria (JCVI-syn1.0 isolate) shown in electron micrographs using two different methods. Source: Gibson et al. Click to enlarge. Researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), a not-for-profit genomic research organization, have successfully constructed the first self-replicating, synthetic bacterial cell. The team synthesized the 1.08 million base pair... Read more →


The new Renewable Petroleum Facility. Click to enlarge. LS9, a synthetic biology company developing fermentation-derived drop-in renewable fuels and chemicals (earlier post), has acquired an existing production facility in Okeechobee, Florida. LS9 will retrofit the facility to accommodate its proprietary one-step fermentation process. The new “Renewable Petroleum Facility” (RPF) is... Read more →


Amyris and University of Queensland Partner on Renewable Jet Fuel from Sugarcane

The University of Queensland, Australia (UQ) and US-based Amyris Biotechnologies Inc., a synthetic biology company focused on developing renewable hydrocarbon biofuels (earlier post), are partnering to explore potential business opportunities for the conversion of sugarcane into renewable jet fuel. The agreement, which was signed at the San Francisco offices of... Read more →


Electron micrograph shows rod-shaped E. coli secreting oil droplets containing biodiesel fuel, along with fatty acids and alcohol. (Image by Jonathan Remis, JBEI) Click to enlarge. A collaboration led by researchers with the US Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) has developed a microbe that can produce an advanced... Read more →


Top: Lignin is normally synthesized from three monolignols. The hydroxyl groups (OH), shown in red, must remain unmodified for these precursors to link up. Bottom: The new enzyme (green structure) can methylate the hydroxyl group, potentially interfering with lignin biosynthesis. Click to enlarge. Scientists at the US Department of Energy’s... Read more →


Amyris Biotechnologies and São Martinho Enter Into Agreement for Boa Vista Mill to be First Commercial Producer of Amyris Renewable Products

Amyris Biotechnologies, Inc. intends to acquire a 40% stake in the Boa Vista mill, an ethanol-producing mill owned and operated by the São Martinho Group, one of the largest and most efficient sugar and ethanol producers in Brazil. The parties will work together to convert this mill to produce Amyris... Read more →


Amyris engineers microbes to convert sugar to hydrocarbon fuels. Micrograph of fermentation fluids from production of Amyris Renewable Diesel (Nov 2007). Source: Amyris. Click to enlarge. Embraer, General Electric, and Amyris Biotechnologies, a synthetic biology company focused on developing renewable hydrocarbon biofuels (earlier post) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to... Read more →


LS9 modifies the ACP pathway in bacteria to produce renewable hydrocarbon fuels and chemicals with optimized properties. Source: LS9. Click to enlarge. LS9 Company, a synthetic biology company producing renewable fuels and chemicals directly by fermentation, has successfully completed a $25 million round of funding. Participating investors included CTTV Investments... Read more →


J. Craig Venter Institute Researchers Clone and Engineer Bacterial Genomes in Yeast and Transplant Genomes Back into Bacterial Cells; Major Advance for Synthetic Biology

Researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) report a major advance in synthetic biology. In a paper published online 20 August in the journal Science, they describe new methods with which the entire bacterial genome from Mycoplasma mycoides was cloned in a yeast cell by adding yeast centromeric plasmid... Read more →


MAGE enables the rapid and continuous generation of sequence diversity at many targeted chromosomal locations across a large population of cells through the repeated introduction of synthetic DNA. Wang et al., Nature. Click to enlarge. A new cell programming method called Multiplex Automated Genome Engineering (MAGE) promises to give biotechnology,... Read more →


ExxonMobil Launches Major Advanced Algal Biofuel Research and Development Program With Synthetic Genomics; More than $600M Targeted

ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company (EMRE) has launched what it calls a “significant” new program to research and develop advanced biofuels from photosynthetic algae that are compatible with today’s gasoline and diesel fuels. As part of the program, ExxonMobil has formed a strategic research and development alliance with Synthetic Genomics... Read more →


Portions of three natural fungal cellulase enzymes that have been recombined to produce a synthetic, thermostable cellulase are denoted by blue, green and red coloring. The recombined cellulase enzyme modeled here functions at higher temperatures than any of the three parents. Source: Caltech. Click to enlarge. Researchers at the California... Read more →


Researchers Engineer Bacteria to Produce Nonnatural Alcohols with Higher Energy Density

Schematic representation of the biosynthetic pathway of the 6-carbon alcohol 3-methyl-1-pentanol. The engineered nonnatural metabolic pathway is shaded in lavender. Click to enlarge. Credit: PNAS Researchers at UCLA have developed a nonnatural biosynthetic pathway enabling the bacteria Escherichia coli to produce various long-chain alcohols with carbon numbers ranging from 5... Read more →


J. Craig Venter Institute Researchers Publish Significant Advance in Genome Assembly Technology; Yeast as a Genetic Factory

Researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) have published a paper describing a significant advance in genome assembly in which the team can now assemble the whole bacterial genome, Mycoplasma genitalium, in one step from 25 fragments of DNA. Lead author Dr. Daniel G. Gibson and his team published... Read more →


Amyris Opens First Pilot Plant for Renewable Diesel Fuel

Amyris Biotechnologies, Inc. has opened its first pilot plant producing renewable diesel fuel, which it brands “No Compromise”. Amyris engineers new metabolic pathways in industrial microbes (bacteria or yeast) to produce a large range of molecules (isoprenoids) used in energy, pharmaceutical, and chemical applications via fermentation of sugar from plant-based... Read more →


Brazil’s Votorantim Takes Stake in Amyris; Support for Commercializing Diesel From Sugarcane by 2010

Amyris is engineering yeast to produce renewable hydrocarbon fuels. Click to enlarge. Brazil’s Votorantim Novos Negócios (New Business) has made a strategic equity investment in Amyris, a synthetic biology company focusing on renewable hydrocarbon fuels (earlier post). This investment supports the Amyris’ objective of commercializing renewable diesel fuel produced via... Read more →


Amyris and Crystalsev Form JV for Renewable Hydrocarbon Fuels; Renewable Diesel from Sugarcane by 2010

Amyris Biotechnologies, a synthetic biology company focused on developing renewable hydrocarbon biofuels (earlier post), and Crystalsev, one of Brazil’s largest ethanol distributors and marketers, are establishing a joint venture to commercialize advanced renewable fuels—including diesel, gasoline and jet fuel—made from sugarcane. The partners are targeting their first product, a renewable... Read more →


Venter Institute Scientists Create First Synthetic Bacterial Genome

A team of 17 researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) has created the largest man-made DNA structure by synthesizing and assembling the 582,970 base pair genome of a bacterium, Mycoplasma genitalium JCVI-1.0. This work, published online today in the journal Science by Dan Gibson, Ph.D., et al, is... Read more →


UCLA Researchers Modify E. Coli to Produce Efficiently Higher-Chain Alcohols for Advanced Biofuels

The UCLA approach shifts part of the bacteria’s biosynthetic pathway to alcohol synthesis. Various 2-keto acid precursors lead to corresponding alcohols through 2-ketoacid decarboxylase and alcohol dehydrogenase. Click to enlarge. Researchers at UCLA have genetically modified Escherichia coli to produce efficiently several higher-chain alcohols from glucose, including isobutanol, 1-butanol, 2-methyl-1-butanol,... Read more →


Synthetic Biology Fuel Company Secures $3.6M in Venture Funding

OPX Biotechnologies, a new company dedicated to enabling economically viable biofuels and biorefined chemicals through the genetic engineering of microbes, has secured $3.6 million in venture funding led by MDV (Mohr Davidow Ventures). OPX also appointed Robert B. Chess as Chairman and CEO and established its board of directors. OPX,... Read more →


University of Alberta Team wins iGEM Prize for Bioengineering E. Coli to Produce Butanol

A 10-member team of University of Alberta students, who call themselves the “Butanerds,” won first prize in the Energy and the Environment category at the fourth annual International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition held this past weekend at MIT. The team has been working on manipulating E. coli to produce... Read more →


Report from JCVI, CSIS and MIT Outlines Policy Options for Synthetic Genomics

Policy experts from the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have released a report, “Synthetic Genomics: Options for Governance,” which outlines areas for interventions and policy options to help mitigate potential risks with this area of... Read more →


Scientists Synthesize Memory Loop in Yeast Cells; First Artificial Gene-Based Device Accompanied By Predictive Mathematical Model

Researchers at Harvard Medical School have successfully synthesized a DNA-based memory loop in yeast cells. These findings mark the first time that a gene-based device is accompanied by a predictive mathematical model, and represent a significant step forward in the emerging field of synthetic biology. A paper on the work... Read more →


UC Irvine and Synthetic Biology Company Collaborate to Re-Engineer Yeast for Optimized Cellulosic Biofuel Production

Scientists from UC Irvine and CODA Genomics are partnering on new research aimed at engineering Saccharomyces cerevesiae—a common strain of yeast used in the production of beer, wine and bread—into an efficient producer of cellulosic ethanol. In its natural state, Saccharomyces processes glucose but does not contain the necessary enzymes... Read more →


Shell Exec Signs On as President of LS9

LS9, Inc., a startup founded in 2005 to apply synthetic biology technology to the production of proprietary biofuels (earlier post), has named Robert Walsh its new President, effective immediately. Walsh will lead the rapid commercialization of LS9 DesignerBiofuels products, including a pilot facility leading to commercial production. LS9 DesignerBiofuels products... Read more →


Virgin Fuels Joins Khosla for Second Round in Bio-Butanol Company

Virgin Fuels has joined founding investor Khosla Ventures in a Series B venture round for Gevo, Inc., a spinoff from Caltech, targeting the production of bio-butanol and other advanced biofuels from a variety of biomass feedstocks. With the funding, Patrick Gruber has joined Gevo as CEO. Gruber was a founder... Read more →


Synthetic Genomics and Asiatic Center for Genome Technology Partner to Sequence Oil Palm Genome

Synthetic Genomics Inc., a privately-held company dedicated to commercializing synthetic genomic processes and naturally occurring processes for alternative energy solutions, and Malaysia-based Asiatic Centre for Genome Technology Sdn Bhd (ACGT), a center that focuses on the application of genome technology to improve oil palm and other crops, announced a multi-year... Read more →


JCVI Scientists Successfully Transplant Bacterial Genome

Colonies of the transformed Mycoplasma mycoides bacterium. Click to enlarge. Researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) have successfully transplanted the genome from one species of bacterium into another. The work, published online in the journal Science, by JCVI’s Carole Lartigue and colleagues, outlines the methods and techniques used... Read more →


Scientists Call for Global Push to Advance Research in Synthetic Biology; Fuels One Output

Seventeen leading scientists from different disciplines ranging from materials engineering to molecular biophysics issued a statement urging a broad global research effort into synthetic biology—the construction or redesign of biological systems components that do not naturally exist, by combining the engineering applications and practices of nanoscience with molecular biology. The... Read more →


LS9 Secures $5M Series A Round, Adds to Scientific Advisory Board

LS9 Inc., a startup founded in 2005 to apply synthetic biology technology to production of proprietary biofuels (earlier post) has secured $5 million in Series A funding from Flagship Ventures and Khosla Ventures and has established its Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). The funding and SAB appointments will accelerate LS9’s plans... Read more →


LS9 Launches to Deliver Next-Generation Biofuels Through Synthetic Biology

LS9 Inc., a startup founded in 2005 to apply synthetic biology technology to production of proprietary biofuels, officially launched today. Synthetic biology is a cross-disciplinary endeavor that designs, optimizes and assembles well-characterized biological components into integrated systems to accomplish specific tasks. LS9 is developing “Renewable Petroleum” biofuels through work pioneered... Read more →