Alumnus, internationally acclaimed scientist Jay Keasling to talk at UNL

Released on 09/14/2009, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

WHEN: Friday, Sep. 25, 2009

WHERE: Nebraska Union Auditorium, 1400 R St., 10 a.m.; Hardin Hall Auditorium, 33rd and Holdrege Sts., 2 p.m.

Lincoln, Neb., September 14th, 2009 —
Jay Keasling (color JPEG)
Jay Keasling (color JPEG)

"Bio-Bricks to Bio-Businesses: Building Synthetic Biology Companies" is the title of an address to be delivered twice Sept. 25 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln by Jay Keasling, biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and a native of Harvard, Neb.

Keasling will inspire UNL faculty and students to develop new technologies with both life-saving and commercial potential. His lecture will also be of interest to a non-scientific audience, and both presentations are free and open to the public. His lectures are Sept. 25, at 10 a.m. at the Nebraska Union Auditorium, 1400 R St., and 2 p.m. at Hardin Hall Auditorium, 33rd and Holdrege streets on East Campus.

Keasling graduated from UNL in 1986 and was vice president of Delta Tau Delta fraternity. After earning his Ph.D. in microbiology at the University of Michigan and completing post-doctoral research at Stanford, Keasling accepted a position at Berkeley in 1992. Ten years later, he was appointed head of the first synthetic biology department in the country. Today, his lab is staffed by 50 postdoctoral and graduate students and funded by a $42.6 million Gates Foundation grant to develop a cure for malaria. Research in the Keasling lab also focuses on the low-cost production of the anti-HIV drug prostratin and the use of microbes to clean up environmental contaminants.

Keasling's work to produce the antimalarial drug artemisinin at low cost led to the founding of Amyris Biotechnologies. More recently, Amyris has developed advanced renewable fuels that can replace gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Keasling is also leading the development of new biofuels through his role as CEO of the Joint BioEnergy Institute, one of three U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Centers. Keasling and colleagues also received $500 million from British Petroleum to create the Energy Biosciences Institute, which will be a world-class hub of research on biofuels and clean energy.

He was named 2006 Scientist of the Year by Discover magazine and in Newsweek's 2008 year-end edition, he was featured as one of three "People to Watch" in stories accompanying the magazine's listing of "The Global Elite" -- those it considered the world's 50 most powerful people (including Keasling's fellow UNL alumnus, Warren Buffett). Keasling has also appeared on Comedy Central's "Colbert Report." He recently received the first Biotech Humanitarian award from the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

Keasling is the Hubbard Howe distinguished professor of biochemical engineering and a professor in the Department of Bioengineering at UC Berkeley; and a senior faculty scientist and acting deputy director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Keasling's visit is sponsored by NUtech Ventures, formerly the Office of Technology Development, part of the Office of Research and Economic Development at UNL. NUtech Ventures is a nonprofit research foundation dedicated to forming innovative partnerships between UNL researchers and those in the private sector with the passion, expertise and resources to develop products based on the university's pioneering research.

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