The DOE Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) filed its 100th patent application and published its 500th scientific paper.

Headquartered in Emeryville, California, the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) is now a member of the elite “100/ 500 Club,” having filed its 100th patent application and published its 500th scientific paper. (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt)

Headquartered in Emeryville, California, the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) is now a member of the elite “100/ 500 Club,” having filed its 100th patent application and published its 500th scientific paper. (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt)

Established in 2007 as one of three DOE Bioenergy Research Centers (BRCs) with the ultimate goal of accelerating the development of advanced, next-generation biofuels, JBEI is a multi-institutional partnership led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

“Achieving the 100/500 milestones helps convey JBEI’s research impact on the scientific/industrial communities,” said Blake Simmons (Senior Manager of Sandia’s Advanced Biomanufacturing Group), JBEI’s Chief Science & Technology Officer and Vice President of JBEI’s Deconstruction Division. “While we take great pride in reaching these metrics, they are only a part of JBEI’s true impact. We have several startup companies and over 60 licenses executed that stem from our scientific results and related IP

[intellectual property].”

Simmons is one of the authors of the 500th JBEI publication, “Refining the phylum Chlorobi by resolving the phylogeny and metabolic potential of the representative of a deeply branching, uncultivated lineage,” published in The ISME Journal: Multidisciplinary Journal of Microbial Ecology (a Nature journal). The paper describes a study of a green sulfur bacteria that has the ability to efficiently break down lignocellulosic biomass for the production of advanced biofuels.

The 100th patent filed by JBEI is titled “Host Cells and Methods for Producing Diacid Compounds.” This work, which was led by JBEI CEO Jay Keasling, describes a technique for engineering host cells to produce one or more fatty acid-derived dicarboxylic acids or “diacids” the cells would not naturally produce.

(From left) JBEI’s Jian Shi, Seema Singh, and Blake Simmons successfully used an ionic liquid to pretreat mixed blends of biofuel feedstocks, a key to future commercialization. (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt)

(From left) JBEI’s Jian Shi, Seema Singh, and Blake Simmons successfully used an ionic liquid to pretreat mixed blends of biofuel feedstocks, a key to future commercialization. (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt)

Advanced biofuels made from the lignocellulosic biomass of grasses, other nonfood crops, and agricultural waste have the potential to replace fossil fuels that are responsible for the annual release of nearly 9 billion metric tons of excess carbon into the atmosphere. The technologies that can be used to transform lignocellulosic biomass into fuels, especially techniques in synthetic biology, can also be applied to the sustainable production of medicines, polymers, and other chemical products that today are being made from unsustainable resources, such as fossil fuels. This sustainability has been the driving factor behind DOE’s investment in its BRCs.

Two years ago, DOE renewed JBEI’s funding at the rate of $25M annually through 2018. Then Secretary of Energy Steven Chu charged JBEI and the other BRCs with deploying innovative approaches and technologies to “move the biofuels industry forward and grow our economy while reducing our reliance on foreign oil.” Through its uniquely nimble and flexible approach to research and its hallmark entrepreneurial and collaborative spirit, JBEI has been meeting and will continue to meet that charge, promises CEO Keasling. “Even though our metrics are excellent, they still don’t do justice to the impact JBEI has had and will continue to have both in basic science as well as the application of that science,” Keasling says. “We’re here to solve one of the most important problems of our time, reducing the impact of transportation on the environment.”

Read the full article at the JBEI newscenter.