Director of the CA Governor’s Office of Business Visits JBEI

Panorea Avdis, Director of Governor Brown’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz), visited the Biosciences Area’s Emery Station Operations Center on September 6 to learn more about the biosciences and bioeconomy related initiatives. GO-Biz was created to serve as California’s single point of contact for economic development and job creation efforts and is an important one-stop shop for companies that want to take advantage of California incentives.

During the visit Director Avdis, who was accompanied by Deputy Director and CA Small Business Advocate, Jesse Torres, met with Mary Maxon, Biosciences Associate Lab Director, Blake Simmons, Division Director, Biological Systems and Engineering, Chief Science & Technology Officer and Vice President for Deconstruction, Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), and Todd Pray, Program Head, Advanced Biofuels Process Development Unit (ABPDU). Avdis also toured the laboratories at JBEI and visited the ABPDU to learn more about how it can be a resource for young biosciences companies seeking to scale up operations.

JBEI promotes bioenergy at 2017 Solano Stroll

Organized by the cities of Albany and Berkeley in California, the Solano Avenue Stroll is the East Bay’s largest street festival with an estimated 250,000 participants visiting from all over the west coast. As per JBEI’s yearly tradition, its volunteers participate at the Stroll on September 10. In collaboration with Berkeley Lab, JBEI volunteers promoted JBEI’s mission and research, and answered the questions from many local residents who wanted to learn more about biofuels and bioproducts.

We thank our volunteers for taking time to volunteer at this event: Andria Rodrigues, Annabel Large, Jessica Trinh, Kosuke Iwai and Robin Herbert.



Congressman Randy Hultgren Visits JBEI

U.S. Congressman Randy Hultgren (R-IL-14) visited the JBEI on September 1st. Congressman Hultgren met with Mary Maxon, Biosciences Associate Lab Director, and Jay Keasling, JBEI’s Chief Executive Officer, and also toured JBEI’s laboratories.

Hultgren is co-founder and leading member of the Science and National Labs Caucus and a proponent of science’s role in unlocking the potential for economic growth and job creation. He recently spoke at a Council on Competitiveness sponsored event in Washington D.C. during which the Council released its latest report “Leverage: Advancing U.S. Bioscience”. The report focused on leveraging U.S. potential in the growing sector of bioscience and biomanufacturing.

JBEI contributes to study that reveals how oxygen-deprived protein loosely binds to a mineral

Berkeley Lab scientists have discovered the details of an unconventional coupling between a bacterial protein and a mineral that allows the bacterium to breathe when oxygen is not available.

In this study, chemical snapshots produced by the X-ray footprinting technique were subsequently analyzed using a technique known as mass spectrometry at the Joint BioEnergy Institute.

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iCLEM Celebrates 10th Anniversary

JBEI’s microbiology program provides hands-on experience for high potential, low-income high school students

The Introductory College Level Experience in Microbiology (iCLEM) is an eight-week paid summer science intensive which provides Bay Area youth from communities traditionally underrepresented in the sciences with paid research internships at the Joint Bioenergy Institute (JBEI).

Created ten years ago by Clem Fortman and James Carothers who were then post-doctoral researchers at JBEI and the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (Synberc), iCLEM targets high potential, low-income high school students who have a deep interest in science or engineering and for whom this program would provide the critical difference in pursuing a higher education degree and a career in science. iCLEM is a multi-layered program that connects students with high school teachers, undergraduate students who are majoring in science at a UC institution, rotating science advisors that conduct research at JBEI, and the JBEI education and outreach team.

The iCLEM 2017 team included the following students: Christopher Pole, Diego Acevedo, James Hoang, Jocelyne Moreno, Mary Tran, Miya Wandera, PeiWen Xiao and Simon Ceja. Virginia Ling and Ron Yadin were the Teaching Assistants and Annie Nguyen and Frankie Garcia were the iCLEM teachers. JBEI science advisors were Constance Bailey, Jesus Barajas, Laure Leynaud-Kieffer, Maren Wehrs and Raphael Gabriel. Steve Singer was the Scientific Director.

This year’s sponsors were the Department of Energy, Amgen Foundation and Heising-Simons Foundation.

To learn more about the program:

  • visit this page ,
  • read this year’s blogs written by the iCLEM students and
  • check out the social media recap.

Below are a few photos from this year’s iCLEM final celebration.

iCLEM 2017 students, teaching assistants and teachers

Teaching assistant Virginia Ling presenting her poster to JBEI’s Steve Singer, iCLEM Scientific Director

iCLEM 2017 students at the start of their presentations





JBEI’s science advisors being recognized for their work

Teaching Assistants Ron Yadin and Virginia Ling


Teaching Assistant Virginia Ling speaking to JBEI Science Advisor Maren Wehrs

Teacher Annie Nguyen presenting her poster

Teachers Annie Nguyen and Frankie Garcia



How to keep America the world leader in science and technology, The Hill

An opinion piece published on The Hill on how U.S. leadership in the technology of biology presents the nation with tremendous opportunity to build the world’s preeminent bioeconomy, mentions the leading efforts of the Joint BioEnergy Institute in the development of advanced biofuels and bioproducts.

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Mortimer participates at WEF’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions

Jenny Mortimer, JBEI’s Deputy Vice President of the Feedstocks Division and Director of Plant Systems Biology participated at the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) 2017 Annual Meeting of the New Champions alongside business and political leaders. The annual meeting whose overall theme this year was inclusive growth in the fourth industrial revolution took place from June 27-29 in Dalian, China. At the meeting Mortimer participated at a press conference entitled “Young, talented and fighting for science” which can be viewed here.

Mortimer was selected in 2016 to be part of WEF’s Young Scientists community which brings together the most forward-thinking and advanced young scientific minds in the world under the age of 40. The selected individuals have demonstrated their commitment to public service and actively play a transformational role in integrating scientific knowledge into society for the public good. To learn more about her experience joining this community read this article.

JBEI Paper Among PLOS ONE Top 10% Most Cited Articles

A paper by JBEI researchers has been ranked among the top 10% most cited PLOS ONE articles. “A Thermophilic Ionic liquid-tolerant Cellulase Cocktail for the Production of Cellulosic Biofuels” published in 2012 has already been viewed 8,871 times and cited 50 times as of today. The paper reports the development of an Ionic Liquid-tolerant cellulase cocktail by combining thermophilic bacterial glycoside hydrolases produced by a mixed consortia with recombinant glycoside hydrolases.

DOE Renews Funding for Joint BioEnergy Institute at Berkeley Lab

The Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), was selected as one of four DOE Bioenergy Research Centers to be awarded a total of $40 million to support innovative research on biofuels and bioproducts.

The state-of-the-art laboratory at DOE’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) is located in Emeryville, Calif. (Credit: Roy Kaltschmidt/Berkeley Lab)

The BRC awards, announced today 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.”

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

JBEI was among three BRCs established by DOE a decade ago 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 research has yielded 672 peer-reviewed publications, 85 licenses, 23 patents, and five startups. In that time, 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

Jay Keasling, CEO of Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) (Credit: Roy Kaltschmidt/Berkeley Lab)

“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.”

Besides JBEI, the four centers selected today 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.

Keasling, who holds joint appointments at Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley, pointed to potential benefits of JBEI research 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.

For example, JBEI has partnered with UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS), considered the only science center in the country that is part of a top-tier, public research university. JBEI and LHS are developing and delivering a recurring biofuel and bioproduct workshop, and lesson plans that will be integrated into LHS curriculum, which reaches 20 percent of the nation’s K-12 students.

“We look forward to entering this next phase of JBEI,” Keasling said. “We have a great team and I look forward to developing bio-based resources that will have a positive impact on peoples’ lives.”

JBEI receives additional support from the California Energy Commission, TeselaGen Biotechnology Inc., and the Heising-Simons Foundation.


Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world’s most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab’s scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel Prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. For more, visit

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