Microbial and Enzyme Discovery

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Steve Singer

Director of Microbial and Enzyme Discovery and Deputy VP of Deconstruction

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Kenneth Sale

Director of Predictive Deconstruction

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Michelle O'Malley

Scientific Lead, Microbial and Enzyme Discovery

view profile for Deepika Awasthi

Deepika Awasthi

Project Scientist

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Mike Kent


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Tom Lankiewicz

Graduate Student Research Assistant

view profile for Niju Narayanan

Niju Narayanan

Post Doctoral Researcher

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Justin Panich

Post Doctoral Researcher

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Mee-Rye Park

Post Doctoral Researcher

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Igor Podolsky

Graduate Student

view profile for Lydia Rachbauer

Lydia Rachbauer

Post Doctoral Researcher

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Susanna Seppala

Project Scientist

view profile for Shilva Shrestha

Shilva Shrestha

Post Doctoral Researcher

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Paul Wolski

Post Doctoral Researcher

Natural systems possess many powerful mechanisms for deconstructing lignocellulosic biomass. In the Microbial and Enzyme Discovery Group, we use a variety of techniques and systems to harness this power to improve the conversion of plant biomass to biofuels and biochemicals. We focus on the deconstruction and transformation of lignin, the most complex and recalcitrant portion of the plant cell wall. We leverage expertise in cultivating and analyzing microbiomes, isolating key microorganisms and characterizing enzymes to discover new mechanisms for lignin deconstruction. Our work involves close collaborations with the Feedstocks Division to provide plants with lignin modifications and with the Biofuels and Bioproducts Division to convert depolymerized lignin streams with engineered microbes.


  • Cultivating microbiomes to understand lignin modification and depolymerization during biomass deconstruction
  • Using microbiomes and novel microbial isolates to understand aromatic uptake and conversion
  • Rewiring bacterial metabolism to improve the efficiency of lignocellulose conversion to fuels and chemicals
  • Deciphering fungal mechanisms of lignin conversion and glycoside hydrolase expression
  • Characterizing oxidative enzymes involved in lignin depolymerization
  • Interrogating anaerobic fungi for novel mechanisms for anaerobic lignin deconstruction

Featured Media

Rachbauer Wins First Place at Bay Area Research SLAM Competition

Engineering Enzyme Secretion in Filamentous Fungi

Featured Publications

Featured Intellectual Property

Database of Lignin Modifying Enzymes