Jay Keasling

Chief Executive Officer and Director of Synthetic Metabolic Pathways

Research Focus

Engineering microorganisms to produce biofuels and chemicals to replace products currently derived from petroleum. A pioneer in the emerging field of synthetic biology, Keasling’s research focuses on engineering microorganisms to produce useful chemicals. During the early 2000s, Keasling led a UC Berkeley research team in using engineered yeast microbes to synthetically produce artemisinin, the powerful anti-malarial drug. Researchers at JBEI are now using the same technology to produce cellulosic biofuels.

His expertise includes:

  • engineering pathways for high-level and large-scale production of hydrocarbons
  • Using functional genomics to characterize engineered organisms
  • developing biological components (gene expression control systems, metabolic pathways, enzymes) and host cells (e.g. E. coli and S. cerevesiae) for production of small molecules (biofuels)


The goal of the Fuels Synthesis Division is the development of improved methods of converting these sugars into fuels, and the development of synthesis processes for new fuel alternatives to ethanol.

The primary goal of JBEI’s Fuels Synthesis Division is to identify the key challenges/opportunities and develop solutions that will enable engineering of microorganisms to efficiently convert sugars generated during biomass depolymerization to advanced biofuels that have properties very similar to fuels produced from petroleum. The research conducted in this division will be separated into three major components:

  • development and optimization of metabolic pathways to efficiently convert biomass sugars into central metabolic intermediates and these central metabolic intermediates into a number of hydrocarbons,
  • development of genetic and computational tools to assess and engineer metabolism,
  • development of methods to assess the impact of biomass hydrolysates and fuels on our hosts and subsequently engineer the hosts to tolerate these potential toxins.

Featured Media

Keasling Wins Israel’s Top Prize in Alternative Fuels

The Economist Recognizes JBEI’s CEO Jay Keasling for Anti-Malarial Effort

Life-Saving Dividends for Synthetic Biology Research: Microbial-Based Antimalarial Drug Shipped to Africa


Jay Keasling with children in a village outside Nairobi, Kenya. (Photo by Gabrielle Tenenbaum)

Keasling Wins 2014 Eni Award’s Renewable Energy Prize

Less Toxic Metabolites, More Chemical Product

Turning Sugar into High Performance Fuel: CNN’s The Next List Profiles Jay Keasling

Launch of Antimalarial Drug a Triumph for Synthetic Biology

Jay Keasling Wins Heinz Award


Featured Publications

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