JBEI Overview: From Biomass to Biofuels

The Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), was selected in July 2017 as one of four DOE Bioenergy Research Centers and was awarded a total of $125 million over five years to support innovative research on biofuels and bioproducts.

The BRC awards, announced by Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, mark the next research phase at JBEI, established in 2007 by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research within DOE’s Office of Science. JBEI and the new centers will expand their focus on breakthrough science in carbon-neutral biofuels to include more research into the development of innovative bioproducts and bio-based chemicals.

“The revolution in modern biology has opened up vast new opportunities in industry and energy for products and fuels derived from biomass as a sustainable resource,” said Perry.

“These centers will accelerate the development of the basic science and technological foundation needed to ensure that American industry and the American public reap the promised benefits of the new bio-based economy.”

– Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy

JBEI partners include Brookhaven, Pacific Northwest and Sandia National Laboratories; Iowa State University; the University of California (UC) campuses at Berkeley, Davis, San Diego, and Santa Barbara; and TeselaGen Biotechnology Inc.

JBEI was among three BRCs established by DOE in 2007 to accelerate fundamental research in advanced, next-generation biofuels, and to make such technology cost-effective and widely available. The other two centers were the BioEnergy Science Center, led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in partnership with Michigan State University.

Since its founding, JBEI has contributed many scientific achievements, including:

  • Engineering bioenergy crops to increase sugar-containing polymers and decrease lignin in plant cell walls
  • Developing an affordable and scalable ionic liquid pretreatment technology
  • Developing microbial routes for the conversion of biomass-derived sugars into advanced, “drop-in” blendstocks for gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels

“JBEI has established a strong track record of producing technologies that make biofuels research easier and that help transform the U.S. bioeconomy,” said Jay Keasling, JBEI’s chief executive officer. “We are very excited to receive this award for continued funding. This third phase of funding will allow JBEI to expand its basic research mission to biomanufacturing of both biofuels and bioproducts from biomass.”

“Ultimately, JBEI’s research will make biofuels affordable and create new renewable bioproducts for consumers and jobs in the agriculture and biotechnology sectors.”

– Jay Keasling, JBEI’s Chief Executive Officer

Besides JBEI, the four centers selected include the Center for Bioenergy Innovation led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory; the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in partnership with Michigan State University; and the Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation, led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The four BRCs, chosen through a rigorous nationwide competition, will receive the initial $40 million funding for fiscal year 2018, with plans to continue funding for an additional four years.

JBEI research has the potential benefits that go beyond decreasing the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels and reducing its carbon footprint on the environment. When fully scaled, JBEI technology promises to reduce the susceptibility of bioenergy crops to disease and drought, and to produce a variety of bioproducts at industrial scales.

JBEI has actively promoted an interest in science careers through student internships, and will remain committed to developing a skilled workforce that can meet the challenges of the new bio-based economy.

JBEI History

JBEI was initially established as one of three DOE Bioenergy Research Centers (BRCs) by DOE’s Office of Science in 2007 on the basis of a nationwide competition to accelerate fundamental research breakthroughs for the development of advanced, next-generation biofuels.

Funded at $125 million for its first five-year period, JBEI was officially dedicated on December 2, 2008 at its state-of-the-art laboratory facility in Emeryville. In April 2013, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a five-year renewal of funding for JBEI at the rate of $25 million annually through 2017.

The other two BRCs that were funded were the BioEnergy Research Center (BESC) led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in partnership with Michigan State University.

The decision to renew the funding for all three BRCs was made following strongly positive evaluations of their respective performances by outside peer review teams. Each BRC has been subjected to rigorous outside evaluation and annual reviews by independent peer review teams.

In ten years of operation, JBEI produced 685 peer-reviewed publications, 273 invention disclosures, 169 patent applications, 89 licenses/options, 28 patents and 6 start-ups.

In total the three BRCs have produced 2,696 peer-reviewed publications, 619 invention disclosures, 397 patent applications, 199 licenses/options, 101 patents and 15 start-ups.


A DOE Office of Science news release on the funding for the four BRCs can be read here.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the Unites States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.  For more information, please visit the Office of Science website at science.energy.gov.

For more about DOE’s Bioenergy Research Centers go here

July 2013 Progress Report from DOE Bioenergy Research Centers

U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Centers – Brochure

JBEI Brochure

JBEI Leaflet