To see biochemist Ee-Been Goh in the lab today, figuring out how to rewire bacteria to produce biofuels, one would never guess she was once so uninterested in school that she barely made it through junior high. Today she is a project scientist at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), a Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Center led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
It’s no secret that extremophiles, or microbes that live in places like polar glaciers and toxic waste pools, may hold treasures worth billions. Now basic biology research has led to the formation of CinderBio, a startup co-founded by Berkeley Lab scientists Steve Yannone and Jill Fuss that produces heat- and acid-stable enzymes.
By manipulating a plant’s metabolic pathways, two scientists at Berkeley Lab, Henrik Scheller and Dominique Loqué, have figured out a way to genetically rewire plants to allow for an exceptionally high level of control over the spatial pattern of gene expression, while at the same time boosting expression to very high levels. Now they have launched a startup company called Afingen to apply this technology for developing low-cost biofuels that could be cost-competitive with gasoline and corn ethanol.