Kenneth Sale

Director of Predictive Deconstruction

Research Focus

Ken Sale is a staff scientist in the Biomass Science and Technologies Department at Sandia National Laboratories. His expertise is in structural and computational biology, enzymology, enzyme engineering, EPR spectroscopy, statistics and data analytics.

At JBEI his group’s aim is to develop multi-component enzyme mixtures for depolymerizing complex carbohydrates into simple sugars and depolymerizing lignin to defined intermediates. This work includes structural and functional characterization of enzymes discovered in the microbes and microbial communities being studied at JBEI and to engineering enzymes enhanced performance in industrially relevant biorefining environments such as the presence of ionic liquids and extremes of temperature and pH.


  • High-throughput screening of cellulolytic enzymes across a matrix of conditions (T, pH, ionic liquid) to identify enzymes for mixture optimization and to understand the protein features that impart ionic liquid tolerance
  • Understanding the enzymes involved in enzymatic depolymerization and metabolism of lignin and combining these enzymes to generate defined lignin fragments
  • Developing novel methods for recovery and recycle of enzymes
  • Understanding the changes in enzyme kinetics resulting from the presence of an ionic liquid
  • Engineering enzymes for improved IL tolerance

Featured Publications