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PHYSICAL BIOSCIENCES DIVISION ONE STOP

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Bionic Liquids from Lignin: New Results from the Joint BioEnergy Institute Pave the Way for Closed Loop Biofuel Refineries

August 18, 2014

While the powerful solvents known as ionic liquids show great promise for liberating fermentable sugars from lignocellulose and improving the economics of advanced biofuels, an even more promising candidate is on the horizon – bionic liquids. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have developed “bionic liquids” from lignin and hemicellulose, two by-products of biofuel production from biorefineries. Read the Berkeley Lab News Center Article >>

Ebola Expert and ALS User Saphire Featured in ZMappTM BBC News Story

August 14, 2014

As the death toll of the Ebola outbreak in West African climbs to over 1000 and the number of people infected with the disease nears 2000, a small glimmer of hope has been provided in part by Advanced Light Source (ALS) user, Erica Ollman Saphire, of The Scripps Research Institute. Saphire used the Berkeley Center for Structural Biology (Beamlines 5.0.2 and 8.2.2) and Beamlines 8.3.1 and 12.3.1 (for SAXS studies) when solving and studying structures of Ebola virus glycoprotein bound to antibodies. Her work, performed in collaboration with the US Army Medical Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), and Mapp Biopharmaceutical, Inc., provided researchers with a roadmap for drug targeting. ZMappTM, produced by Mapp, contains three antibodies that target Ebola glycoprotein and has been used to treat two health care workers who were infected with this deadly virus in Liberia. Saphire was featured in this BBC news story about the drug. Watch the BBC News Story >>

Microbial-Based Antimalaria Drug Shipped to Africa

August 13, 2014

Project begun some 13 years ago by ALD for Biosciences Jay Keasling was culminated by an announcement on Tuesday that pharmaceutical company Sanofi and nonprofit health organization PATH have shipped 1.7 million treatments of semi-synthetic artemisinin. Read the Berkeley Lab News Center Article >>

iCLEM Featured as a “Cool School” on KPIX-TV

August 11, 2014

The high school student internship program sponsored by the Joint BioEnergy Institute and Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center, iCLEM, is featured on KPIX-TV. Watch the KPIX-TV Archive Footage >>

Startups Develop the Next Big Thing at Campus Labs

August 8, 2014

Inside Stanley Hall, which hosts UC Berkeley’s Department of Bioengineering and QB3 (led in Berkeley by PBD's Faculty Scientist, Susan Marqusee), a number of labs are in full swing over the summer, serving research facilities for students and faculty and incubators for innovative startups that may spearhead emerging industries. Read the Berkeley Graduate Division Article >>

“Imaging Life” Crosses Biological Boundaries, Introduces Integrated Bioimaging

August 7, 2014

Scientists studying the human tissues and entire living model organisms have an array of tools at their disposal to view the inner workings of our biological systems. Now Berkeley Lab’s Manfred Auer has helped put together a book that he believes is the first to include all the biological imaging techniques up to the tissue level in one place. Contributors include Physical Biosciences Division's Paul Adams, Mark A. LeGros, and Carolyn Larabell. Read the Berkeley Lab News Center Article >>

Intriguing DNA Editor Has a Structural Trigger

July 31, 2014

The molecular structures of two proteins from a family of genome-editing enzymes reveal how they target and cleave DNA. The results point the way to the rational design of new and improved versions of the enzymes for basic research and genetic engineering. Read the ALS Science Highlight >>

How Sweet It Is

July 28, 2014

JBEI researchers have developed a powerful new tool that can help advance the genetic engineering of “fuel” crops for clean, green and renewable bioenergy - an assay that enables scientists to identify and characterize the function of nucleotide sugar transporters, critical components in the biosynthesis of plant cell walls. Read the Berkeley Lab News Center Article >>

JBEI Hosts National Student Leadership Conference

July 25, 2014

The Joint BioEnergy Institute hosted 76 students who are taking part in a summer biotechnology program run by the National Student Leadership Conference (NSCL). Every summer the NSLC invites a select group of outstanding high school students, from the US and abroad, to participate in its fast-paced, high-level, interactive summer sessions. Read the Today at Berkeley Lab Article >>

The iCLEM Program: An Atypical Summer Job for Bay Area High School Students

July 22, 2014

Eight Bay Area high school students have been conducting scientific research on bioenergy as part of “iCLEM,” which stands for Introductory College Level Experience in Microbiology. This program provides a paid summer internship for high-potential, low income high school students who have finished their junior or sophomore year. Sponsored by the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) and the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (Synberc), with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), iCLEM pays the students a total of $2,000 upon completion of an eight-week program in which they do real science in collaboration with high school science teachers and researchers from JBEI and Synberc. Read the Berkeley Lab News Center Article >>

Physical Bioscientists Scheller and Loqué Among Recipients of 2014 R&D 100 Awards

July 11, 2014

Two members of the Physical Biosciences Division and the Joint BioEnergy Insitute (JBEI), Henrik Scheller, Vice President for Feedstocks, and Dominique Loqué, Director of Cell Wall Engineering, are among the recipients of the 2014 R&D 100 awards. They were recognized for their Tissue-Specific Cell-Wall Engineering for Biofuels and Biomaterials, a suite of precision genetic tools that will improve crops bred for production of food, biofuels, industrial polymers, and pharmaceuticals. Read the Berkeley Lab News Center Article >>

Postcards from the Photosynthetic Edge: Berkeley Lab Researchers Take Femtosecond Snapshots of Photosynthetic Water Oxidation

July 9, 2014

A breakthrough discovery into how living cells process and respond to chemical information could help advance the development of treatments for a large number of cancers and other cellular disorders that have been resistant to therapy. Read the Berkeley Lab News Center Article >>

Adam Arkin to Appear on July 9th Episode of Science Channel's ‘Through the Wormhole’

July 9, 2014

The director of the Physical Biosciences Division will appear on the popular Science Channel program July 9th at 10 p.m. The show, “Will We Become God?” looks at the scientific breakthroughs that are seemingly granting humans “divine” abilities. Go to Science Channel >>

New Discovery in Living Cell Signaling: Berkeley Lab Researchers Help Find That What Was Believed to be Noise is an Important Signaling Factor

July 3, 2014

A breakthrough discovery into how living cells process and respond to chemical information could help advance the development of treatments for a large number of cancers and other cellular disorders that have been resistant to therapy. Read the Berkeley Lab News Center Article >>

Mobile Microscopes: Snapping The Future Of Health Care

July 1, 2014

Physical bioscientist Daniel Fletcher’s pioneering research is discussed in a Forbes story about the smartphones’ new healthcare applications, such as the CellScope, a microscope he developed that can be used in the field. Read the Forbes article >>

A CRISPR Way to Fix Genes

June 26, 2014

NPR’s “All Things Considered” program profiles Berkeley Lab’s Jennifer Doudna and her contributions to the development of a revolutionary genetic engineering technique, a major breakthrough in the fight against hereditary diseases. Listen to the Story >>

Jennifer Doudna Co-Winner of Janssen Award for Biomedical Research

June 26, 2014

Physical bioscientist Jennifer Doudna along with Emmanuelle Charpentier were recognized for their discovering a new method for precisely manipulating genetic information in ways that should produce new insights in health and disease, and may lead to the discovery of new targets for drug development. Read the PR Newswire Announcement >>

The JBEI GT Collection: A New Resource for Advanced Biofuels Research

June 24, 2014

The JBEI GT Collection, the first glycosyltransferase clone collection specifically targeted for the study of plant cell wall biosynthesis, is expected to drive basic scientific understanding of GTs and better enable the manipulation of plant cell walls for the production of biofuels and other chemical products. Read the Berkeley Lab News Center Article >>

Dynamic Spectroscopy Duo

June 17, 2014

From allowing our eyes to see, to enabling green plants to harvest energy from the sun, photochemical reactions—reactions triggered by light—are both ubiquitous and critical to nature. Photochemical reactions also play essential roles in high technology, from the creation of new nanomaterials to the development of more efficient solar energy systems. Using photochemical reactions to our best advantage requires a deep understanding of the interplay between the electrons and atomic nuclei within a molecular system after that system has been excited by light. A major advance towards acquiring this knowledge has been reported by a team of researchers with the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the Univ. of California (UC) Berkeley.

Graham Fleming, UC Berkeley’s Vice Chancellor for Research and a faculty senior scientist with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division, led the development of a new experimental technique called 2-D electronic-vibrational spectroscopy (2-D-EV). By combining the advantages of two well-established spectroscopy technologies—2-D-electronic and 2-D-infrared—this technique is the first that can be used to simultaneously monitor electronic and molecular dynamics on a femtosecond time scale. The results show how the coupling of electronic states and nuclear vibrations affect the outcome of photochemical reactions. Read the Berkeley Lab News Center Article >>

Tobacco Gets a Makeover as New Source for Biofuel

June 5, 2014

KQED’s ‘QUEST’ highlights Folium, a research program that includes Lab scientists, among them PBD Faculty Affiliate Cheryl Kerfeld. Folium is backed by a $4.8 million grant from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), a U.S. Department of Energy agency that funds the research and development of emerging energy technologies. Kerfeld's research group has extensive experience studying the genomes of aquatic, photosynthetic bacteria, called cyanobacteria. To create biofuel from tobacco, Folium researchers have added genes from algae and cyanobacteria that can process sunlight more efficiently than corn does and convert the sunlight into hydrocarbons via photosynthesis. Read the KQED's 'QUEST' Article >>

Jay Keasling Receives the 2104 Renewable Energy Eni Award

June 3, 2014

Jay Keasling, CEO of the Joint BioEnergy Institute and pioneer in synthetic biology, has been honored as the recipient of the 2014 Renewable Energy Eni Award for his work on the microbial production of hydrocarbon fuels. Eni is an international energy company operating in the traditional sectors of oil and gas, but also participates in scientific research projects in renewable energies, particularly the areas of biofuels and solar energy. This award consists of a medal specially struck by the Italian State Mint and a cash prize of 200,000 Euros (~$272,500). The purpose of the Renewable Energy Prize is to promote research and innovation on alternative sources of energy. Read the PBD Featured News Article >>

Berkeley Lab Programs Facilitate Blood Cancer Research

June 2, 2014

Two Berkeley Lab resources, the Berkeley Center for Structural Biology at the Advanced Light Source and the Phenix X-ray crystallography software developed in the Physical Biosciences Division, were integral to the solution and refinement of the kinase/pseudokinase structure of JAK family member, TYK2. Read the Featured News Article >>

Emeryville Home to Bio-Incredibles Like JBEI & ABPDU

May 29, 2014

Emeryville has a reputation for being a hotbed for synthetic biology, nanotechnology, and green materials development. Both the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) and Advanced Biofuels Process Development Unit (ABPDU) were mentioned in a BiofuelsDigest story about the team at Industrial Microbes, a new company across the street from JBEI and the ABPDU. This fledgling concern is looking to combine two greenhouse gases, methane and carbon dioxide, to produce malic acid. Malic acid is used as a flavor enhancer by the food industry and can be converted into derivatives used in the manufacture of materials, such as biodegradable plastics and fibers. If successful, this process would reduce both greenhouse gases and dependence on petroleum-derived malate. Read the story and interview with Industrial Microbes >>

Kuriyan Speaks About Gaining Biological Insight from Molecular Dynamics Simulations

May 22, 2014

John Kuriyan, Senior Faculty Scientist in the Physical Biosciences Division and Chancellor’s Professor in the Departments of Molecular and Cell Biology and Chemistry at UC-Berkeley, gave the inaugural talk of NERSC’s Nobel Lunchtime Lecture Series on Tuesday. Kuriyan represented his mentor, Martin Karplus, who has been using supercomputers at NERSC since 1998. Karplus, Michael Levitt, & Arieh Warshel received the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems. Using slides from Karplus’ Nobel lecture and results from his own research, Kuriyan showed how computational simulations provide insights into protein structure and dynamics. Watch the lecture here. Read the Featured News Article >>

JCAP’s Krawicz Talks Artificial Photosynthesis at ‘Nerd Nite’ Event

May 21, 2014

Join Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis postdoc Alexandra Krawicz at “Nerd Nite” on Monday, May 26 at 8 p.m. at the Parkway Theater in Oakland. Also on tap for the event is a talk on using “The Lemma is not Burnside’s” method to count things, and a day-in-the-life of a real paramedic. Krawicz’s research focuses on developing stable attachment strategies for molecular catalysts to photocathodes to create constructs for solar fuel production. Cost for the event is $8. More information about Nerd Nite East Bay >>

All in the Rotation: New Research Could Help Future Drug Designs

May 13, 2014

Carlos Bustamante of the Physical Biosciences Division led a multi-institutional team that published a recent study in Cell in which a unique set of optical tweezers was used to shed new light on a molecular motor that packages the DNA of a number of viruses, including such human pathogens as herpes and the adenoviruses. These findings could help the development of more effective strategies to stop or block this motor and find alternative drugs against the viruses it packages. The results of this study could also inspire the design of future synthetic biomotors. Other members of the team were Shixin Liu, Gheorghe Chistol, Craig Hetherington, Sara Tafoya, Aathavan Karunakaran, Joerg Schnitzbauer, Shelley Grimes and Paul Jardine. Read the Berkeley Lab News Center Article >>

Joint BioEnergy Institute Names New Chief Science and Technology Officer

May 13, 2014

The DOE’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) CEO Jay Keasling announced that Blake Simmons would be stepping into the role of Chief Science and Technology Officer (CSTO). “We are thrilled that Blake has agreed to take on this new role at JBEI,” said Keasling. “Blake has been a strong leader of our Deconstruction Divison and has catalyzed important breakthroughs.” Simmons, who joined JBEI in 2006 as Vice President, will continue as Senior Manager of the Biofuels & Biomaterials Science and Technology Department at Sandia National Laboratories. Simmons takes over as CSTO from Harvey Blanch, who retired earlier this year. “With my colleagues,” said Simmons, “I look forward to creating an atmosphere that enables technical innovations and will lead to exciting technology transfer and business development opportunities.” Read the full Press Release >>

Trent Northen Receives DOE Early Career Award

May 8, 2014

Trent Northen, Director of Array-Based Assays at the Joint BioEnergy Institute, was one of 35 researchers selected by the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Science to receive significant funding for research as part of DOE’s Early Career Research Program. The effort, now in its fifth year, is designed to bolster the nation’s scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years, when many scientists do their most formative work. Read the DOE's Office of Science Press Release >>

New Biochip Mimics Liver To Make Drug Discovery Faster, Easier

May 7, 2014

 A team of researchers — including Berkeley Lab physical bioscientist Douglas Clark — has developed a new type of biochip that emulates the metabolism of a human liver. The device could one day eliminate the need to harvest and use liver cells from human cadavers to test the toxicity of potential new drugs and drug candidates. Read the ScienceBlog article >>

BCSB Hosts Nano-Workshop on Ligands

May 5, 2014

The Berkeley Lab Center for Structural Biology (BCSB) hosted a one-day workshop on ligands in structural biology on May 2, 2014. The workshop highlighted aspects of the role of ligands from a wide variety of viewpoints, including computational chemistry, macromolecular crystallography, SAXS and small molecule crystallography. Visit the BCSB webpage >>

Pollan’s Dilemma: Ronald’s Scuba Rice and G.M.O. Papayas

April 30, 2014

Pam Ronald, a UC Davis plant geneticist who directs the Grass Genetics program for the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), is featured in New Yorker magazine about her participation in a classroom debate with famed author and UC Berkeley journalism professor Michael Pollan about the use of G.M.O.s (genetically modified organisms) as food. Pollan, a highly vocal skeptic, invited Ronald to make the case for G.M.O.s in his Edible Education class. As examples of G.M.O. success, Ronald could point to her own development of “scuba rice” that can grow in the often flooded fields of Bangladesh and India, and a banana resistant to a disease that has decimated crops in East Africa. “I’ll give you the papaya,” Pollan conceded on a G.M.O. papaya that saved Hawaii’s industry. Read the New Yorker Article >>

Doudna's Discovery Named One of Year's 10 Key Breakthrough Technologies

April 28, 2014

Jennifer Doudna, a biochemist with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division and professor at UC Berkeley, is a developer of CRISPR, Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, named one of MIT Technology Review’s Top Breakthrough Technologies of 2014. This technology is being applied to genome editing by researchers in China. As the magazine says in its story on the work: “It is already transforming how scientists think about genetic engineering, because it allows them to make changes to the genome precisely and relatively easily.” Read the Tech Review Article >>

Ahmet Yildiz honored by President Obama

April 18, 2014

Physical Biosciences affiliate, Ahmet Yildiz, was one of four scientists from Berkeley Lab to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). Dr. Yildiz was one of a group of 102 leading researchers who were personally thanked for their achievements by President Obama at the White House on Monday. The PECASE is the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. Dr. Yildiz, an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Physics and Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology at UC-Berkeley, and the members of his laboratory use single-molecule techniques to study intracellular organization and transport. Read more about the Yildiz' Group research. Read the White House Article >>

Dr. Adam Arkin Recipient of 2013 Lawrence Award

April 16, 2014

Adam Arkin, director of Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division (PBD) and a biologist who is recognized as a leading authority on the evolutionary design principles of cellular networks and populations and their application to systems and synthetic biology, has been named one of six recipients of the 2013 Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award by U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. The E.O. Lawrence Award, the Department of Energy (DOE)’s highest scientific honor, is recognizing Arkin “for his work advancing biological and environmental sciences." Read the LBL Newscenter Article >>

What About BOB? Keasling Leads Bid for Berkeley Open Biofoundry

April 7, 2014

Jay Keasling, ALD for Biosciences, and Mary Maxon, who heads strategic planning and development for Biosciences, are spearheading a proposal to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) called BOB – for Berkeley Open Biofoundry. If successful, this proposal would create a new type of user facility in which industrial, academic, and government stakeholders will have access to engineered biological systems, including microbes, plants and tissues, at all stages of the engineering process, including design, building, testing and learning. Read the LBL Newscenter Article >>

PBD Researchers Give Photosynthesis Talks at Swedish Renewable Energy Meeting

March 28, 2014

Physical Bioscience Division researchers Yan Kern (left) and Gary Moore (right) were among the invited speakers to the 2014 Umeå Renewable Energy Meeting held in the Chemical and Biological Centre at Umeå University, Sweden. The meeting brought together an international group of researchers at the forefronts of natural and artificial photosynthesis to strengthen and display efforts towards research in the renewable energy field.
Read the LBL Newscenter Article >>

JBEI Researchers Engineer Resistance to Ionic Liquids in Biofuel Microbes

March 26, 2014

Michael Thelen, Thomas Ruegg and Blake Simmons of the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), led the identification of the genetic origins of a resistance to ionic liquids found in a tropical rainforest microbe. This genetic mechanism was then successfully introduced into a strain of E. coli that’s been engineered to produce advanced biofuels. Ionic liquids are used to make cellulosic biomass digestible for the E.coli but have had to be completely removed prior to fermentation because of toxicity. Ionic liquid resistance eliminates this bottleneck. Also contributing to this research were Eun-Mi Kim, Jay Keasling, Steven Singer and Taek Soon Lee. Read the LBL Newscenter Article >>

New Tool for Data-Mining at SLAC’s LCLS

March 20, 2014

Nicholas Sauter and Paul Adams of the Physical Biosciences Division led the development of a software package called the Computational Crystallography Toolbox for X-ray Free-electron Lasers or cctbx.xfel, that can be used to obtain high-quality images of proteins from the data produced at SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS). This software not only can be used to study the structures and functions of elusive proteins, it can also be used to mine data from past experiments for new information. Also contributing to this work from Berkeley Lab were Johan Hattne, Nathaniel Echols, Rosalie Tran, Jan Kern, Richard Gildea, Aaron Brewster, Benedikt Lassalle-Kaiser, Alyssa Lampe, Guangye Han, Sheraz Gul, Petrus Zwart, Ralf Grosse-Kunstleve, Junko Yano and Vittal Yachandra.
Read the Full Story at SLAC News >>

KQED’s QUEST Shines Career Spotlight on JBEI’s Mukhopadhyay

March 14, 2014

Aindrila Mukhopadhyay is a microbiologist at Berkeley Lab’s Joint BioEnergy Institute, where she investigates the most effective ways to use microbes to convert plants into biofuels. Mukhopadhyay leads a multidisciplinary team studying stress response in bacteria. Her work ranges from hands-on research to grant writing. As a student Mukhopadhyay was always passionate about science, and she went on to earn a doctorate in chemistry. Every day she celebrates “small victories” at work and enjoys improving biofuels that will power the cars of today and tomorrow. Read the KQED Science QUEST Article Here >>

Dominique Loque, The winner of the 2014 Robert Rabson Award from the American Society of Plant Biologists

March 14, 2014

Dominique Loque, Director of Cell Wall Biosynthesis at the Joint BioEnergy Institute, has been awarded the 2014 Robert Rabson Award from the American Society of Plant Biologists. This biennial award was first given by the Society in 2012 and recognizes scientists who have made excellent contributions in the area of bioenergy research. Dominique’s research focuses on engineering plant cell walls to increase plant growth and biofuel yield. Read the Cell Wall Biosynthesis Article Here >>

Scientists ‘Herd’ Cells in New Approach to Tissue Engineering

March 13, 2014

Sometimes it only takes a quick jolt of electricity to get a swarm of cells moving in the right direction. Researchers at UC Berkeley — led by Berkeley Lab physical bioscientist Michel Maharbiz — found that an electrical current can be used to orchestrate the flow of a group of cells, an achievement that could establish the basis for more controlled forms of tissue engineering and for potential applications such as “smart bandages” that use electrical stimulation to help heal wounds. In the experiments, described in a study published this week in the journal Nature Materials, the researchers used single layers of epithelial cells, the type of cells that bind together to form robust sheathes in skin, kidneys, cornea and other organs. They found that by applying an electric current of about five volts per centimeter, they could encourage cells to migrate along the direct current electric field. They were able to make the cells swarm left or right, to diverge or converge and to make collective U-turns. They also created elaborate shapes, such as a triceratops and the UC Berkeley Cal bear mascot, to explore how the population and configuration of cell sheets affect migration. Read the UC Berkeley News Center Article Here >>

Promising News for Solar Fuels from Berkeley Lab Researchers at JCAP

March 7, 2014

There’s promising news from the front on efforts to produce fuels through artificial photosynthesis. A new study by Berkeley Lab researchers at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) shows that nearly 90-percent of the electrons generated by a hybrid material designed to store solar energy in hydrogen are being stored in the target hydrogen molecules. Gary Moore, a chemist and principal investigator with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division, led an efficiency analysis study of a unique photocathode material he and his research group have developed for catalyzing the production of hydrogen fuel from sunlight. This material, a hybrid formed from interfacing the semiconductor gallium phosphide with a molecular hydrogen-producing cobaloxime catalyst, has the potential to address one of the major challenges in the use of artificial photosynthesis to make renewable solar fuels. Read the LBL Newscenter Article Here >>

FNIH awards Lurie Prize in the Biomedical Sciences to Jennifer Doudna from UC Berkeley

The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) has selected Jennifer Doudna, Ph.D., a Professor from the University of California, Berkeley, as the second winner of its Lurie Prize in the Biomedical Sciences. Doudna, a Howard Hughes Investigator and Professor of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology, will be presented the Lurie Prize medal and a $100,000 honorarium on May 20 in Washington, D.C. Read more >>

Jay Keasling, JBEI CEO presents at the AAAS Annual Meeting

February 21, 2014

One of the topics presented at the AAAS meeting was alternative fuels. This sessesion was led by the Lab’s Associate Laboratory Director for Biosciences, and JBEI CEO, Jay Keasling, who looked at the possibility of using synthetic biology to create advanced biofuels. Joining Keasling on the panel was the Lab’s Michelle Chang. Read more >>

Alexandra Krawicz, JCAP Postdoc working with PBD PI Gary Moore receives Presentation award

February 18, 2014

Alexandra Krawicz — a postdoctoral researcher at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis working with Physical Biosciences Division principal investigator Gary F. Moore — was acknowledged for her contributions to the field of Artificial Photosynthesis at the 23rd Western Photosynthesis Conference held in Pacific Grove, CA. Her presentation at the meeting, “Structure, Energetics and Efficiency Analysis of a Cobaloxime Modified Photocathode” described work recently published with coauthor Diana Cedeno and corresponding author Gary F. Moore in the journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics. The research provides an energetics and efficiency analysis of a material capable of harnessing solar energy into fuel. Read more >>

JBEI Prototype Inventions

February 6, 2014

Researchers from the Joint BioEnergy Institute, Joint Genome Institute, and collaborators have developed a portable, network-enabled system for testing drinking water contamination. The system, called ScanDrop, uses microfluidics technology and cloud-based networking to scan water samples for pathogens and transmit the data remotely. Read more >>

New Insight into an Emerging Genome-Editing Tool

February 6, 2014

The potential is there for bacteria and other microbes to be genetically engineered to perform a cornucopia of valuable goods and services, from the production of safer, more effective medicines and clean, green, sustainable fuels, to the clean-up and restoration of our air, water and land. Read more >>

BCSB PRT Member works featured

January 29, 2014

Therapeutic antibodies have revolutionized the treatment of human disease; however, antibody bivalency can limit their utility against some targets due to receptor crosslinking and activation. Genentech has developed a unique one-armed antibody, onartuzumab, which is now in late-stage clinical trials in multiple cancer types. Using crystal structures obtained at ALS Beamline 5.0.2, Genentech has demonstrated the mechanism of action of this unique potentially therapeutic antibody against its target, the receptor tyrosine kinase MET. Read more >>

Seung-Wuk Lee's Research

January 21, 2014

Some may think of turkeys as good for just lunch meat and holiday meals, but bioengineers at UC Berkeley saw inspiration in the big birds for a new type of biosensor that changes color when exposed to chemical vapors. This feature makes the sensors valuable detectors of toxins or airborne pathogens. Read more >>

Berkeley Lab-led Project Aims to Produce Liquid Transportation Fuel from Methane

January 15, 2014

How’s this for innovative: A Berkeley Lab-led team hopes to engineer a new enzyme that efficiently converts methane to liquid transportation fuel. “There’s a lot of methane available, and we want to develop a new way to harness it as an energy source for vehicles,” says Christer Jansson, a biochemist in Berkeley Lab’s Earth Sciences Division who heads the effort. Methane is the main component of natural gas and biogas from wastewater treatments and landfills. Read more >>

KQED’s QUEST Shines Career Spotlight on JBEI’s Mukhopadhyay

March 14, 2014

Aindrila Mukhopadhyay is a microbiologist at Berkeley Lab’s Joint BioEnergy Institute, where she investigates the most effective ways to use microbes to convert plants into biofuels. Mukhopadhyay leads a multidisciplinary team studying stress response in bacteria. Her work ranges from hands-on research to grant writing. As a student Mukhopadhyay was always passionate about science, and she went on to earn a doctorate in chemistry. Every day she celebrates “small victories” at work and enjoys improving biofuels that will power the cars of today and tomorrow. Read the KQED Science QUEST Article Here >>

Dominique Loque, The winner of the 2014 Robert Rabson Award from the American Society of Plant Biologists

March 14, 2014

Dominique Loque, Director of Cell Wall Biosynthesis at the Joint BioEnergy Institute, has been awarded the 2014 Robert Rabson Award from the American Society of Plant Biologists. This biennial award was first given by the Society in 2012 and recognizes scientists who have made excellent contributions in the area of bioenergy research. Dominique’s research focuses on engineering plant cell walls to increase plant growth and biofuel yield. Read the Cell Wall Biosynthesis Article Here >>

Scientists ‘Herd’ Cells in New Approach to Tissue Engineering

March 13, 2014

Sometimes it only takes a quick jolt of electricity to get a swarm of cells moving in the right direction. Researchers at UC Berkeley — led by Berkeley Lab physical bioscientist Michel Maharbiz — found that an electrical current can be used to orchestrate the flow of a group of cells, an achievement that could establish the basis for more controlled forms of tissue engineering and for potential applications such as “smart bandages” that use electrical stimulation to help heal wounds. In the experiments, described in a study published this week in the journal Nature Materials, the researchers used single layers of epithelial cells, the type of cells that bind together to form robust sheathes in skin, kidneys, cornea and other organs. They found that by applying an electric current of about five volts per centimeter, they could encourage cells to migrate along the direct current electric field. They were able to make the cells swarm left or right, to diverge or converge and to make collective U-turns. They also created elaborate shapes, such as a triceratops and the UC Berkeley Cal bear mascot, to explore how the population and configuration of cell sheets affect migration. Read the UC Berkeley News Center Article Here >>

Promising News for Solar Fuels from Berkeley Lab Researchers at JCAP

March 7, 2014

There’s promising news from the front on efforts to produce fuels through artificial photosynthesis. A new study by Berkeley Lab researchers at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) shows that nearly 90-percent of the electrons generated by a hybrid material designed to store solar energy in hydrogen are being stored in the target hydrogen molecules. Gary Moore, a chemist and principal investigator with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division, led an efficiency analysis study of a unique photocathode material he and his research group have developed for catalyzing the production of hydrogen fuel from sunlight. This material, a hybrid formed from interfacing the semiconductor gallium phosphide with a molecular hydrogen-producing cobaloxime catalyst, has the potential to address one of the major challenges in the use of artificial photosynthesis to make renewable solar fuels. Read the LBL Newscenter Article Here >>

Lab Scientist Heinz Frei Sees the Light on Solar Energy

January 12, 2013

Heinz Frei was working as a postdoc at UC Berkeley in 1980 when his mentor, the late George Pimentel, walked up to his desk. He just returned from a Department of Energy solar research conference where most presentations focused on ultraviolet light. Infrared, which makes up far more of the energy reaching the Earth, had hardly earned a mention. The real potential to exploit sunlight, said Pimentel, lies in this “long” end of the light wavelength spectrum. He asked Frei if he would set up a research group at Berkeley Lab to study this. He said yes on the spot. Read the SF Gate Article Here>>

Applying Pressure on Breasts can suppress Cancer Cell Growth

The American Society for Cell Biology presented at an annual meeting that research suggests applying pressure on breasts may help suppress cancer cell growth. This builds upon research done by Mina Bissell from LBNL, working jointly with Daniel Fletcher and his team within PBD. The study was part of new efforts by the National Institutes of Health to combine physical science research with ongoing cancer research. Read the Daily Cal Article Here>>

JCAP’s Alexandra Krawicz Receives Young Investigator Award

July 31, 2013

Alexandra Krawicz — a postdoctoral researcher working with Physical Biosciences Division principal investigator Gary Moore at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) — was presented with a Photochemistry Gordon Research Conference Young Investigator Award at the 2013 meeting held in Easton Massachusetts. Krawicz was recognized for her research efforts on interfacing noble-metal-free fuel production catalysts to visible-light-absorbing semiconductors. Her presentation at the meeting titled, “Photochemically Active Cobaloxime-Modified Electrodes,” described work recently published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. The research provides a viable route to developing an integrated photocathode material for use in a solar-fuels generator.

Microbial Who-Done-It For Biofuels

July 26, 2013

Steve Singer of the Earth Sciences Division helped lead the development of a promising technique to identify microbial enzymes that can effectively deconstruct biomass into fuel sugars under refinery processing conditions. Commercialization of advanced biofuels hinges on finding cost-competitive ways to extract fermentable sugars from lignocellulosic biomass. Microbial enzymes hold great promise but identifying the most effective is a major challenge. Other contributors to this study were Patrik D’haeseleer, John Gladden, Martin Allgaier, Patrik Chain, Susannah Tringe, Stephanie Malfatti, Joshua Aldrich, Carrie Nicora, Errol Robinson, Ljiljana Paša-Tolić, Philip Hugenholtz and Blake Simmons. Read more >>

Clean, Green High Performance Biofuels From Carbon Dioxide

July 25, 2013

Could coal-burning power plants be a future source of biofuels? A team of researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) led by Harry Beller of the Earth Sciences Division has engineered a common soil bacterium, Ralstonia eutropha, to produce high-performance diesel fuel from carbon dioxide rather than from the sugars in cellulosic biomass. Their R. eutropha generates significant quantities of methyl ketones, aliphatic compounds that have high diesel fuel ratings. The JBEI team included Jana Müller, Daniel MacEachran, Helcio Burd, Noppadon Sathitsuksanoh, Changhao Bi, Yi-Chun Yeh, Taek Soon Lee, Nathan Hillson, Swapnil Chhabra and Steven Singer. Read more >>

JBEI's Aritficial Photosynthiesis Research Featured in BBC Video

July 23, 2013

Frances Houle and Joel Ager of the Lab’s Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, are featured in a BBC video on their efforts to develop solar panels that can create fuel rather than electricity. JCAP researchers hope to have prototype within the year. Read more >>

ALS Study Links Vitamin D Deficiency to Accelerated Aging of Bones

July 11, 2013

Sunshine might be bad for your skin but it is good for your bones. Robert Ritchie and Hrishikesh Bale of the Materials Sciences Division led an international study at the Advanced Light Source, in which it was shown that deficiency in vitamin D — the sunshine vitamin — accelerates the aging process of bone, reducing the quality and making it more susceptible to fracturing. Also contributing to this study were Björn Busse, Elizabeth Zimmermann, Brian Panganiban, Holly Barth, Alessandra Carriero, Eik Vettorazzi, Josef Zustin, Michael Hahn, Joel Ager, Klaus Püschel and Michael Amling. Read more >>

NPR Morning Edition Profiles Keasling and Efforts to Make Fuel From Yeast

July 3, 2013

Jay Keasling of the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) is profiled for his pioneering work in synthetic biology, developing a technique to manufacture diesel fuel from yeast. Read the full story and listen at NPR here >>

Protein ‘Traffic Jams’ Linked to Malignant Activity in Breast Cancer

July 2, 2013

Jay Groves of the Physical Biosciences Division led a study in which it was demonstrated that the malignant activity of a critical cellular protein system strongly linked to breast cancer, the EphA2/ephrin-A1 complex, can arise from what essentially are protein traffic jams. Using an artificial membrane embedded with gold nanodots, Groves and his team showed that transport of this complex is normal in healthier cell lines but becomes jammed in diseased cell lines, with the worst jamming taking place in the cells that are the most diseased. On this team with Groves were Theobald Lohmuller and Qian Xu. Read more >>

New Ribosome Research Could Lead to Better Antibiotics

June 28, 2013

Berkeley Lab scientists have created an atomic-scale structure of a bacterial ribosome attached to a molecule that controls its motion. The image is also a possible roadmap to better antibiotics. Somewhere in its twists and turns could be a weakness that a new antibiotic can target. The research, led by Jamie Cate of the Physical Biosciences Division and involving the Advanced Light Source, appears in the journal Science. Read more >>

Industry @ ALS: Enabling Thin Silicon Solar Cell Technology

June 28, 2013

The effort to shift U.S. energy reliance from fossil fuels to renewable sources has spurred companies to reduce the cost and increase the reliability of their solar photovoltaics (SPVs). However, thinner silicon is more susceptible to stress and cracking, leading one researcher from SunPower Corporation to mount a fundamental approach to systematically find stress and enable solutions for next-generation crystalline silicon SPV systems. Read more >>

ALS Helps Explore Why Sea Life in the Southern Ocean is Less Abundant

June 27, 2013

The Southern Ocean, circling the Earth between Antarctica and the southernmost regions of Africa, South America, and Australia, is notorious for its high-nutrient, low-chlorophyll areas, which are rich in nutrients—but poor in essential iron. Sea life is less abundant in these regions because the growth of phytoplankton—the marine plants that form the base of the food chain—is suppressed. A study by scientists from South Africa’s Stellenbosch University, Princeton University, and the Advanced Light Source (ALS) suggests that it is not just a lack of iron, but a lack of iron in an easy-to-use form, that is affecting the ecosystems. Read more >>

ALS Researcher Polite Stewart Featured on Local TV Show

June 26, 2013

Polite Stewart, the 19-year-old child prodigy who graduated high school at 14 and is now on a yearlong fellowship at the Advanced Light Source, was featured in “Bay Area Proud", a segment on NBC Bay Area. Stewart talked about how it felt to be working with so many smart people at Berkeley Lab: “For me it’s great because I’ve never felt normal before. I’ve never felt not different.” Click here for the news story and video >>

Three Lab Scientists Named Bakar Fellows

June 25, 2013

Chemist Felix Fischer (Materials Sciences), physicist Feng Wang (Materials Sciences) and plant and microbial biologist Mary Wildermuth (Physical Biosciences) have been named Bakar Fellows, a UC Berkeley program to support innovative research by early career faculty, in particular those who want to focus on a project that has real-world applications in areas ranging from health care and agriculture to high-tech and biotech. All three hold appointments as professors at UC Berkeley. The program provides five years of research support and is now in its second year of operation. Read More >>

First Patented Discovery for Energy Biosciences Institute

June 24, 2013

Jamie Cate of the Physical Biosciences Division was one of the inventors behind the first discovery at the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) to be awarded a patent. Cates and his fellow EBI researchers expressed genes from the fungus Neurospora crassa in yeast to optimize the ability of the microbes to utilize C5 and C6 sugars in plant cell walls for the production of ethanol. EBI is a public-private research partnership funded by BP whose partners include UC Berkeley, the University of Illinois and Berkeley Lab. EBI now has more than 50 patents pending with two awards being imminent. Read More >>

APEX Advances Toward Bright Electron Beams at a Million Pulses per Second

June 21, 2013

Free-electron laser (FEL) light sources yield striking science but are hampered by repetition rates of a hundred or so x-ray pulses per second. A million pulses a second are needed to drastically reduce experiment time and enable currently impossible experiments. Enter APEX, a prototype electron gun for the front ends of accelerators that power FELs. A team headed by Fernando Sannibale of the Accelerator and Fusion Research Division has proved APEX’s ability to produce a million high-charge, high-quality electron bunches a second from laser-stimulated photocathodes. Next step is to ramp up the beam brightness to next-generation light source specs. Read More >>

Expressly Unfit for the Laboratory

June 20, 2013

Adam Arkin, Morgan Price and Adam Deutschbauer of the Physical Biosciences Division spearheaded a study that challenges the orthodoxy of microbiology, which holds that in response to environmental changes, bacterial genes will boost production of needed proteins and decrease production of those that aren’t. The study found that for bacteria in the laboratory there was little evidence of adaptive genetic response. In fact, most bacterial genes appear to be regulated by signals unrelated to their function. Also contributing to this study were Jeffrey Skerker, Kelly Wetmore, Troy Ruths, Jordan Mar, Jennifer Kuehl and Wenjun Shao. Read More >>

Planning for Future Research in Magnetism and Spintronics at the ALS

June 14, 2013

The Advanced Light Source excels at ARPES — angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy — which directly maps a material’s electronic structure using electrons emitted when x-rays strike its surface. When it comes to magnetism and spintronics, progress in both these fast-rising fields demands new experimental tools, however. Electron spin determines magnetic properties and can control how charged currents flow. Alexei Fedorov, Chris Jozwiak, and Zahid Hussain of the ALS and Peter Fischer of the Materials Sciences Division have proposed an instrument that would be unique in the United States for a deeper understanding of the role of spin: spin-resolved ARPES. Read More >>

19-Year Old ALS Researcher Among Lab's Youngest Scientists

June 11, 2013

Polite Stewart graduated from high school at the ripe old age of 14, graduated from college with a physics degree at 18, and at 19, has taken a yearlong fellowship at the Advanced Light Source, gathering synchrotron x-ray data from Beamline 7.3.3. His dream is to go to graduate school in Japan to study physics in a different language. Go here to learn more about this gifted and ambitious employee.

Second ALS Beamline Hits the 1,000 Mark

June 10, 2013

At the Advanced Light Source (ALS), Beamline 5.0.2, a protein crystallography beamline that is part of the Berkeley Center for Structural Biology (BCSB), became the second ALS beamline to reach the 1,000 published structures mark. Proteins are the workhorses of biology, responsible for much of the architecture and chemistry of living cells. Knowing the crystal structure of a protein is the key to determining its function. The 1,000th published protein structure at 5.0.2 was a thiourea-containing anti-cancer agent. Beamline 8.3.1 became the first ALS beamline to pass the 1,000 published structure milestone earlier this year.

Naomi Ginsberg joins PBD as Faculty Scientist

June 6, 2013

Dr. Naomi Ginsberg, an assistant professor of Chemistry and Physics at UC Berkeley, has joined PBD as a faculty scientist. Ginsberg received her B.A. Sc in Engineering Science from the University of Toronto in 2000 and earned a Ph.D. in Physics from Harvard in 2007. She was a Glenn T. Seaborg Postdoctoral Fellow at the Lab from 2007 through 2010, working with the Fleming group. She received the DARPA Young Faculty Award in 2012 and was a Packard Fellow for Science and Engineering in 2011. She was also the Cupola Era Endowed Chair in the College of Chemistry from 2010-2012. Read more >

ALS Helps Show Why Ancient Roman Concrete is Durable and Ecological

June 5, 2013

An international team led by Paulo Monteiro of the Advanced Light Source and UC Berkeley has analyzed samples of Roman concrete from harbor installations that have survived 2,000 years of chemical attack and wave action, “one of the most durable construction materials on the planet,” says UC Berkeley’s Marie Jackson, a leading member of the team. Says Monteiro, “It’s not that modern concrete isn’t good, but manufacturing Portland cement accounts for seven percent of the carbon dioxide that industry puts into the air.” The carbon footprint of Roman concrete, made from lime, volcanic ash, and seawater, is much smaller. Read more >

ALS Helps Lead the Way to Better Vaccines

June 4, 2013

Diphtheria is a potentially lethal respiratory disease that is fairly well controlled by vaccines discovered early last century. These vaccines have been extremely effective; studies on one vaccine in particular, the nontoxic form of the diphtheria toxin (DT), have informed other vaccines. Recently, researchers solved several structures of a nontoxic DT using data obtained at ALS Beamline 5.0.3, resolving a long-standing scientific puzzle and leading the way to even better vaccines for a variety of bacterial diseases. Read more >

Capturing Molecular Structures in a Flash of X-Rays

May 30, 2013

The structures of most of the two million proteins in the human body are known because they can’t be crystallized. Peter Zwart of the Physical Biosciences Division and his colleagues have come up with a new algorithm for efficiently solving the structures of proteins and other big molecules in their more natural fluid states, using the “diffract before destroy” capability of free-electron laser light sources like SLAC’s LCLS. Called fluctuation x-ray scattering, the technique uses the average diffraction patterns of numerous pdivs in solution, all captured simultaneously. Read more >

Lab’s Biosciences Strategic Plan Now Available

May 22, 2013

The Biosciences 10-Year Strategic Plan, the first to incorporate feedback from all area divisions and an external advisory committee, is now available. It describes a vision for a national future strengthened by biological research achievements and provides guidance for Berkeley Lab’s activities to meet these ambitious aims. The plan hones the uses of biosciences to address energy needs, protect the environment, understand and improve health, and develop biomanufacturing technologies. The Biosciences Area is assembling four cross-divisional implementation teams who will articulate concrete objectives and new initiatives required to reach the plan’s milestones.

JBEI Researchers Develop Enzyme-Free Ionic Liquid Pre-Treatment

May 10, 2013

Bringing the costs of producing advanced biofuels down to competitive levels with petrofuels, is a major challenge. But researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have taken another step towards meeting this challenge with the development of a new technique for pre-treating cellulosic biomass with ionic liquids — salts that are liquids rather than crystals at room temperature. This new technique requires none of the expensive enzymes used in previous ionic liquid pretreatments, and makes it easier to recover fuel sugars and recycle the ionic liquid. This research was lead by JBEI’s Blake Simmons.Read more>

Early Career Research Program Award for PBD Scientist

May 08, 2013

Dominique Loque of the Physical Biosciences Division received his award for “Developing Synthetic Biology Tools to Engineer Plant Root System and Improve Biomass Yield and Carbon Sequestration.” Loque, who directs the cell wall engineering program for the Feedstocks Division of the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), has been using the tools of synthetic biology to reduce the recalcitrance and boost the polysaccharide content of plant cells walls without impacting plant development. This is part of the major DOE effort to speed the commercialization of advanced biofuels.

Register now for JCAP’s Solar-Fuels Summer School

May 08, 2013

The Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) will hold a weeklong summer school on solar fuels, starting June 17. All are welcome to attend lectures from leading experts in surface chemistry and physics, to be held each morning in the Building 50 Auditorium. To attend the full school, including hands-on laboratory and instrument-training workshops, registration is required. Read more >

ABC 7 Profiles JBEI’s Efforts to Create Alternative Fuels

May 07, 2013

[KGO] Today's higher gas prices can really pinch the monthly budget. But what if there was a cheaper alternative that could be produced on the scale of oil and be better for the environment? That's just what Joint BioEnergy Institute in Emeryville is working on.

Every day, hundreds of thousands of cars crowd Bay Area streets and highways. For every gallon of gas burned, nearly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide is released into the environment. Carbon dioxide is the biggest contributor to global warming.

"Our job here at JBEI is not to produce fuels, but to actually develop the science that companies will then license and turn into fuels," said Jay Keasling, the executive director of the Joint BioEnergy Institute in Emeryville. Read more >

Berger, Sethian Elected to National Academy of Sciences

May 02, 2013

The National Academy of Sciences announced the election of two Berkeley Lab researchers to this year’s class of 84 new members and 21 foreign associates from 14 countries. They were elected in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Representing Berkeley Lab this year are James Berger from the Physical Biosciences Division and James Sethian from the Computational Research Division. Read more >

PBD Scientists Named Members to the American Academy of Sciences

April 30, 2013

Susan Marqusee and James Berger, both professors at UCB, have been named members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a prestigious 233-year-old national honorary society of leaders from academia, business, public affairs and the humanities.

The newly elected are in good company with 8 other esteemed UCB faculty members in the 2013 election. The 2013 election bringing ten from UC Berkeley raises the number of academy members on the UC Berkeley faculty to 234.

“Election to the academy honors individual accomplishment and calls upon members to serve the public good,” said academy president Leslie C. Berlowitz. “We look forward to drawing on the knowledge and expertise of these distinguished men and women to advance solutions to the pressing policy challenges of the day.”

The 2013 cohort includes winners of the Nobel Prize; National Medal of Science; Lasker Award; Pulitzer and Shaw prizes; Fields Medal; MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships; Kennedy Center Honors; and Grammy, Emmy, Academy and Tony awards. They will be inducted at a ceremony on Oct. 12, 2013, at the academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Read more >

Keasling Wins Johnson Award

April 19, 2013

Jay Keasling, Berkeley Lab ALD for Biosciences and CEO of the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), has won this year’s Marvin J. Johnson Award in Microbial and Biochemical Technology. The award, which is sponsored by Pfizer, Inc., was announced at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in New Orleans. Keasling was recognized for his contributions to the establishment of metabolic engineering strategies and molecular toolboxes that can be used to develop microoganisms for the production of biofuels and other valuable chemical products. Keasling presented an award lecture at the ACS meeting on this topic.

Synthetic Biologists and Conservationists Open Talks

April 18, 2013

[Nature] A first-of-its-kind meeting was recently held at the University of Cambridge, leading conservationists and synthetic biologists discussed how the technology could be applied in ways to benefit the planet: to produce heat-tolerant coral reefs, pollution-sensing soil microbes and ruminant gut microbes that don’t belch methane. The discussions took place against a background of mutual wariness, with some observers nervous about the technology’s influence over land-use patterns. The Lab’s Jay Keasling addressed this issue when talking about the development of synthetic artemesinin. Read more >

JBEI and SynBERC Honored for Mentoring Next Generation of Scientists

April 15, 2013

JBEI and SynBERC have been honored for their innovative partnership offering real-world laboratory experience to high school students from under represented communities. The Introductory College-Level Experience in Microbiology (iCLEM) has been recognized with the Exceptional Mentoring Award by Biotech Partners. Now in its sixth year, iCLEM is a paid summer internship that gives promising students with a deep interest in science an opportunity to work on biofuels research projects inside JBEI’s state-of-the-art laboratories. During the 8-week program, students receive hands-on instruction in biosciences research, job training skills, career exploration opportunities and preparation for the college application process.

JBEI and SynBERC Honored for Mentoring Next Generation of Scientists

April 12, 2013

The future of synthetic biology is now. Berkeley Lab’s Jay Keasling was on-hand to witness a microbial-based version of the front-line antimalarial drug artemisinin officially become available to patients worldwide. Twelve years ago, Keasling used synthetic biology to engineer microbes to inexpensively and sustainably produce the critical chemical component of artemisinin, a drug that represents a lifesaver for the nearly 300 million people in developing nations who contract malaria each year. The microbial version of artemisinin is being produced by the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi using a no-profit, no-loss production model to maintain a low price for those who most need it. Read more >

New Protein Assessment Process May Improve Diagnosis, Treatment of Diseases

April 12, 2013

After age 60, a man faces one chance in six of getting prostate cancer. Unfortunately, the lab test that detects the disease can’t reveal if the cancer poses a real risk. Not knowing if their prostate cancer is likely to metastasize, millions undergo biopsies, and surgeries that can cause serious complications — only to learn that their cancer was not a likely threat. New research — like Berkeley Lab physical bioscientist Amy Herr is conducting — now points the way to a much more refined assessment of proteins and the promise of better diagnosis and treatment of a range of diseases. Read more >

Lab Researchers Find Way to Catalyze More Sugars from Biomass

April 9, 2013

Harvey Blanch, Jan Liphardt and Doug Clark of the Physical Biosciences Division led a study in which a microscopy technique called PALM — for Photo-Activated Localization Microscopy — was used to improve the collective catalytic activity of enzyme cocktails on cellulosic biomass, boosting the yields of sugars for the production of advanced biofuels. Increasing the sugar yields from cellulosic biomass will help bring down biofuel production costs. Also working on this study were Jerome Fox, Phillip Jess, Rakesh Jambusaria and Genny Moo. Read more >

Department of Energy Renews Joint BioEnergy Institute for Another Five Years

April 5, 2013

The Department of Energy has renewed funding for the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) for another five years at $25 million annually. JBEI is a multi-institutional partnership for advanced biofuels research led by Berkeley Lab. The renewed funding follows strong performance reviews of JBEI research by outside peer groups. “JBEI was designed to be nimble and flexible enough to focus and refocus its research quickly, efficiently and effectively,” JBEI CEO Jay Keasling said. “We’re grateful for DOE’s recognition that this strategy continues to be a worthy investment for moving the nation toward a sustainable energy future.” Read more >

Swords to Plowshares: Engineering Plants for More Biofuel Sugars

April 4, 2013

Henrik Scheller of the Physical Biosciences Division led a team of researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) who are using the tools of synthetic biology to engineer plants with low xylan content and a higher proportion of cellulosic sugars for the production of advanced biofuels. Working with Scheller on this research were Pia Damm Petersen, Jane Lau, Berit Ebert, Fan Yang, Yves Verhertbruggen, Jin Sun Kim, Patanjali Varanasi, Anongpat Suttangkakul, Manfred Auer and Dominique Loqué Read more >

JBEI Researchers Engineer Plant Cell Walls to Boost Sugar Yields for Biofuels

April 1, 2013

Dominique Loque (right) of the Physical Biosciences Division leads a team at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) that is using synthetic biology to engineer healthy plants whose lignocellulosic biomass can more easily be broken down into simple sugars for the production of advanced biofuels. Working with Arabidopsis as a demonstration, the team genetically manipulates secondary cell walls to reduce the production of lignin and increase the yield of fuel sugars. The team includes Fan Yang, Prajakta Mitra, Ling Zhang, Lina Prak, Yves Verhertbruggen, Jin-Sun Kim, Lan Sun, Kejian Zheng, Kexuan Tang, Manfred Auer and Henrik Scheller (left). Read more >

Connecting the Dots Between Biofuels and Champagne

March 28, 2013

It doesn’t sound quite right, but bubbly and biofuel may have more in common than appears at first glance. Both are fermented products that start out with plant matter. “As a scientist you always try to break everything down to the basics, and making wine is about fermentation and the product is ethanol. It’s basically a fuel,” says Timo Schuerg, a postdoc at the Energy Biosciences Institute — a partnership that includes Berkeley Lab — who was among a group of EBI researchers and students to get a firsthand look at the winemaking process at a field trip to Mumm in Napa. Read more >

Panel Explores Revolutionary Potential of Synthetic Biology

March 28, 2013

Berkeley Lab ALD for Biosciences Jay Keasling (left) led a symposium at Stanley Hall this past Monday entitled “Programming Life” and featuring an all-star panel of synthetic biology experts. Co-sponsored by Discover Magazine and SynBERC, the symposium focused on a future in which living cells are designed and engineered as readily as today’s electronic circuits. Among the promises are cleaner and renewable energy sources, improved human health, and a safer more reliable food supply. Speakers included George Church of Harvard, Christopher Voigt of MIT, Virginia Ursin of Monsanto, Drew Endy of Stanford and many others. Read more >

Discover Magazine, SynBERC Host Symposium on Potential of Synthetic Biology

March 22, 2013

SynBERC, a UC Berkeley synthetic biology research organization, and Discover magazine have teamed up to explore the vast possibilities of this new type of biological engineering in a special symposium. The event will be held at Stanley Hall on the UC Berkeley campus, Monday, March 25 at 1 p.m., with a reception to follow. The keynote speaker will be Juan Enriquez, managing director in Excel Venture Management, and co-founder of Synthetic Genomics. The distinguished panelists include Berkeley Lab’s Jay Keasling and other leaders in synthetic biology from academia and industry. Send e-mail here to RSVP. Space is limited. Read more >

DOE Women’s History Month Feature Includes Profiles of Lab Researchers

March 22, 2013

In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Department of Energy is featuring “Women @ Energy,” which showcases talented and dedicated employees at the Energy Department. Women @ Energy profiles women across the country who share insights on what inspired them to work in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Several Berkeley Lab researchers are included in the feature, including Susannah Green Tringe (JGI), Rachel Segalman (Materials Sciences), Natalie Roe (Physics), Mina Bissell and Jill Fuss (Life Sciences), Kathy Yelick (Computing Sciences), Dawn Munson (Engineering), Gabriel Orebi Gann (NSD), and (pictured) Aindrila Mukhopadhyay (JBEI). Read more >

Evidence That Comets Could Have Seeded Life On Earth

March 8, 2013

A new experiment simulating conditions in deep space reveals that the complex building blocks of life could have been created on icy interplanetary dust and then carried to Earth, jump-starting life. The discovery opens the door to the possibility that these molecules were brought to Earth aboard a comet or possibly meteorites, catalyzing the formation of proteins (polypeptides), enzymes and even more complex molecules, such as sugars, that are necessary for life. Richard Mathies of the Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division and UC Berkeley was coauthor of a paper published online last week and scheduled for the March 10 print issue of The Astrophysical Journal. Read more >

PBD Hosts March 5 Talk on Regulation of Photosynthetic Light Harvesting

February 28, 2013

Photosynthesis is the biological process that converts solar energy into chemical energy. The research in Kris Niyogi’s lab aims to understand how photosynthetic energy conversion works, how it is regulated, and how it might be improved to help meet the world’s needs for food and fuel. Nyogi — with the Physical Biosciences Division— will present a talk on “Regulation of Photosynthetic Light Harvesting,” at noon on Tuesday, March 5, in the Building 50 Auditorium. The presentation will be streamed live.

A Dual Look at Photosystem II

February 15, 2013

Junko Yano and Vittal Yachandra of Physical Biosciences Division led a collaboration with SLAC in which femtosecond X-rays from the Linac Coherent Light Source were used to simultaneously collect both diffraction and spectroscopy data at room temperature from crystals of the photosystem II protein complex. PS II splits the water molecule to produce molecular oxygen during photosynthesis. This work could pave the way for artificial photosynthesis. Read more >

New Details on the Molecular Machinery of Cancer

February 13, 2013

Jay Groves and John Kuriyan of the Physical Biosciences Division led a study that has provided important new details into the activation of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), a cell surface protein that has been strongly linked to a large number of cancers and is a major target of cancer therapies. The researchers found that the current picture of EGFR activation is oversimplified. Also working on this study were Nicholas Endres, Rahul Das, Adam Smith, Anton Arkhipov, Erika Kovacs, Yongjian Huang, Jeffrey Pelton, Yibing Shan, David Shaw and David Wemmer. Read more >

Physical Biosciences Hosts Postdoc Network Kick-off Event

February 13, 2013

The Physical Biosciences Division invites all postdocs and their mentors to a special event tomorrow at 1 p.m. in the Building 50 Auditorium. Guest speaker Erna Grasz will speak on “How Best to Jump Start Your Career Through the Postdoc Experience.” Grasz has led organizations, teams, and individuals to success in fast paced, high stress, and results orientated environments. She is known as an organizer of chaos and a turn-around leader.

New Details on the Molecular Machinery of Cancer

February 11, 2013

“The more we understand about EGFR and the complex molecular machinery involved in the growth and proliferation of cells, the closer we will be to developing new and more effective ways to cure and treat the many different forms of cancer,” says chemist Jay Groves, one of the leaders of this research. “Through a tour-de-force of quantitative biology techniques that included cutting edge time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy in living cells, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, and computational modeling, we’ve determined definitively how EGFR becomes activated through to its epidermal growth factor (EGF) ligand.” Read more >>

CNN Profiles JBEI’s Jay Keasling in Blog and on Sunday Broadcast

February 8, 2013

Berkeley Lab researcher Jay Keasling is profiled in CNN’s “The Next List” blog, which explores his pioneering research in the field of synthetic biology and the engineering microbes to produce biofuels, medicines, and other products from simple ingredients like sugar cane and grass. He will also be the subject of a 30-minute profile, airing Sunday, Feb. 10, at 2:30 p.m. ET (11:30 a.m. PST), on CNN. Watch video here >

Feb. 12 PBD Talk on Making Microbes Electroactive Using Synthetic Biology

February 7, 2013

Staff Scientist Caroline Ajo-Franklin’s work focuses on manipulating organisms to create functional biotic/abiotic nanointerfaces. She will discuss this research at a PBD Science and Tech Talk at noon on Tuesday, Feb. 12, in the Building 50 Auditorium. Her lecture will cover the reprogramming the respiratory pathways of organisms, in order to efficiently harness the vast capabilities of life in chemical energy conversion, and chemical and material synthesis. She’ll describe efforts to engineer electron flow between microbial cells and inorganic materials. Go here to view a live stream of the talk.

JBEI Receives Bomb Threat This Morning

February 6, 2013

UPDATE (2:45 p.m., Feb. 6): After a thorough search of the Joint Bioenergy Institute in Emeryville, police found no threats to safety and are allowing employees to return to work. Authorities are still investigating the origins of the threat.

A bomb threat this morning has led to the evacuation of the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) and the Advanced Biofuels Process Demonstration Unit (ABPDU) facilities in Emeryville. Emeryville and UC Police departments are conducting a search of the Emery Station East building in which both facilities are housed. Employees there have been asked to stay off the premises until further notification. See Level-One e-mail from Director Alivisatos sent earlier this morning for additional details.

Blending Feedstocks May Help Make Biofuels More Cost Effective

February 1, 2013

Blake Simmons and Seema Singh of the Berkeley Lab-led Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) led a collaboration with the Idaho National Laboratory that showed blending different feedstocks and milling the mixture into energy-dense flour or pellets has significant potential for helping biofuels become a cost-competitive transportation fuel technology. Also working on this study from JBEI were Jian Shi and Vitalie Stavila. Read more >

Hitting Sweet Spot for Advanced Biofuel Technologies

January 25, 2013

James Gardner of the Physical Biosciences Division manages the operation of Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Biofuels Process Demonstration Unit (ABPDU), the West Coast’s only state-of-the-art facility providing industry-scale test beds for laboratory discoveries in advanced biofuels research. Gardner says ABPDU’s facilities are designed to speed the commercialization of advanced biofuels by hitting the scalability “sweet spot” between bench science and commercial technology. Read more >

Lab Scientist Heinz Frei Sees the Light on Solar Energy

January 15, 2013

[San Francisco Chronicle] Heinz Frei was working as a postdoc at UC Berkeley in 1980 when his mentor, the late George Pimentel, walked up to his desk. He just returned from a Department of Energy solar research conference where most presentations focused on ultraviolet light. Infrared, which makes up far more of the energy reaching the Earth, had hardly earned a mention. The real potential to exploit sunlight, said Pimentel, lies in this “long” end of the light wavelength spectrum. He asked Frei if he would set up a research group at Berkeley Lab to study this. He said yes on the spot. Read more >

Go here for a related story on the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis that Frei leads.

Computer Simulations Create ‘Shadow Work’ that Pushes Molecules

January 4, 2013

Digital computers approximate the analog world with finite sets of bits, so to represent the continuous passage of time they digitize time into small slices. In dynamic simulations of molecular systems this causes tiny errors to build up that can cause big headaches for scientists. In a forthcoming issue of Physical Review X, David Sivak and Gavin Crooks of the Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division and John Chodera of UC’s QB3 pinpoint the source of these tenacious errors – they call it “shadow work” — and come up with a way to separate the realistic aspects of a simulation from the artifacts of the computer method. Read more >

To Revert Breast Cancer Cells, Give Them the Squeeze

January 3, 2013

UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab researchers have put the squeeze — literally — on malignant mammary cells to guide them back into a normal growth pattern. The findings show that mechanical forces alone can revert and stop the growth of cancer cells. This change happens even though the genetic mutations responsible for malignancy remain. “We are showing that tissue organization is sensitive to mechanical inputs from the environment at the beginning stages of growth and development,” said Lab physical bioscientist Daniel Fletcher. “An early signal, in the form of compression, appears to get these malignant cells back on the right track.” Read more >

Boosting Galactan Sugars Could Boost Biofuel Production

January 2, 2013

Henrik Scheller, who holds joint appointments with JBEI and the Physical Biosciences Division, led a study in which the first enzyme capable of substantially increasing the amount of galactan sugars in plant cell walls was identified. Galactan sugars are readily fermented and increasing their levels in biomass should boost production of advanced biofuels. Also working on this project for JBEI were April Liwanag, Berit Ebert, Yves Verhertbruggen, Emilie Rennie, Carsten Rautengarten, and Ai Oikawa. Read more >