Saturday, June 09, 2007

Better Fuels Through Synthetic Biology

Amyris’s technology derives from the research of Jay D. Keasling, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and the director of the synthetic biology department of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Mr. Keasling’s lab is widely credited with making commercially practical an emerging technology called metabolic engineering.

Mr. Keasling’s metabolic engineering is farther-reaching and, potentially, much more productive. His lab has invented techniques that rewrite the metabolisms of microorganisms. By modifying the structure of a microorganism’s proteins and adding genes from other organisms, Mr. Keasling has designed microbial factories that can produce a tremendous variety of drugs, biofuels and other chemicals.

Amyris chose to ask something more basic and more interesting: What would perfect fuels look like if they were designed from scratch? The start-up decided to concentrate on the second stage of creating a biofuel: fermenting sugars into fuel.

Over the last year and a half, Amyris has created in its labs microorganisms whose metabolic pathways are yielding alternatives to diesel, jet fuel and gasoline. Now the company is working to make the conversion from sugars to fuel more efficient.
Amyris is a pretty impressive company. First they use synthetic biology to make a cheap malaria drug, now they are trying to use it to create a cheap biofuel.

via NY Times

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