Health Supreme by Sepp Hasslberger

Networking For A Better Future - News and perspectives you may not find in the media

Networking For A Better Future - News and perspectives you may not find in the media

Health Supreme

News Blog

Site Map





Food for Thought


Human Potential






The Media

War Crimes


Articles Archive


See also:


Communication Agents:

INACTIVE  Ivan Ingrilli
  Chris Gupta
  Tom Atlee
INACTIVE  Emma Holister
  Rinaldo Lampis
  Steve Bosserman
  CA Journal


Robin Good's
Web sites:












The Individual - Human Ability:


Society - Politics:






February 03, 2007

Synthetic Biology: Replace Oil Addiction with a 'Sugar Binge'?

Today, sugar is a cheap and sweet, if unhealthy and addictive, addition to our daily meals. But if the plans of an upstart biotechnology company established with funds from Microsoft's Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are anywhere close to what's in stock for the future, we may yet end up paying a premium price to satisfy our sweet tooth.


Sugar Beets have many food uses - Image:

Amyris Biotechnologies, according to an article on ABC13, plans to divert sugar into the gas tank of our cars and trucks and - why not - airplanes as well. Their cutting-edge speciality - synthetic biology - promises to turn the sweet stuff into fuel. Not ethanol but gasoline or diesel ... it's all in the design of the microbes - they can be genetically engineered to do almost anything these days. What will happen to the price of sugar - and in fact anything sweetened with it - once the business gets going, is anyone's guess.

Like President Bush's ill-conceived proposal to use corn for ending America's addiction to oil, biotech designer fuels have every chance to jack up our food prices by unbalancing world agricultural markets, diverting farmers into fuel production when what we need is real food. There's little difference between using corn and sugar for fuel. Both will turn out to be expensive in the long run and both are bound to benefit not so much the users of fuels and food but the multinational corporations that control everything from oil to chemicals, pharmaceuticals and factory farming.

George Monbiot warned two years ago that biodiesel will have a significant effect on the availability of food, as long as the raw material we use competes for its cultivation with crops that have traditionally fed people.

Amyris Biotechnologies, when it was first established with a $ 43 million from Microsoft Founder Gates' Foundation, planned to make an anti-malaria drug using synthetic biotechnology. According to the ABC article, Amyris Vice-President Jack Newman said:

"This was technology that was really great for the current application of making an anti-malarial drug and we said, great, pharmaceuticals, that's a wonderful model and then we realized, our market is in Africa and they make less than a dollar a day."

That was at the time when scientists realized that artemisia or sweet wormwood, a common medicinal plant, could be used as a malaria fighter and was much more effective than the pharmaceutical drugs that were losing effectiveness against the malaria parasite. Since then, malaria fighting artemisia has been cultivated in many third world countries and the biotech upstart had to look for a more lucrative business.

The choice was biofuels, and with a fresh injection of $ 20 million in venture capital and a new CEO hired away from British Petroleum, the company is set to divert sugar into our gas tanks. BP itself is getting seriously involved in the effort, quite apart from its "donation" of a top manager. An unprecedented $ 500 million grant has been awarded by BP to the University of Berkeley, to finance a brand new Energy Biosciences Institute, the SFGate reports.

Why is there such a rush to keep us using petrol products or something very similar?Certainly there are other, more promising alternatives for capital to be employed in getting new energy technologies on line. But then - perhaps turning food to fuel may keep the great energy business "in the family".

See: Sugar in the gas tank? It might run your car someday

Inside Amyris: The Name, The People, The Beginning

Cal to be hub for study of alternate fuel - Group headed by UC Berkeley wins $500 million grant from BP

- - -

Just for archive purposes, here is the story...

Sugar in the gas tank? It might run your car someday

Heather Ishimaru

(1/29/07) - What if gasoline, diesel and jet fuel could be made without oil and made instead with sugar? An Emeryville-based company founded by U.C. Berkeley scientists is on its way to doing just that, with staggering environmental and economic implications.

This sugary solution could be what breaks America's addiction to oil.

Science has long understood how ethanol is made by adding sugar to yeast. But now using the same basic biological processes, scientists can re-program the microbes to make something closer to gasoline. It's cutting-edge technology commonly known as "synthetic biology" and it will change the way we fuel any vehicle that now relies on oil -- at least that's the hope at Emeryville-based Amyris Biotechnologies.

Jack Newman, PhD, Amyris Biotechnologies VP: "Why are we making ethanol if we're trying to make a fuel? We should be making something that looks a lot more like gasoline. We should be making something that looks a lot more like diesel. And if you wanted to design, you name it, a jet fuel? We can make that too."

Microbial physiologist Jack Newman was a post-doctoral student in a U.C. Berkeley lab when he met biologist Kinkead Reiling and chemical engineer Neil Renninger, also doing their post-doc work in the same lab.

They soon recognized in each other the perfect combination and common vision for launching a company like the one they now have, taking out-of-this-world science and bringing it to the real-world.

Amyris Biotechnologies was born with a $43 million dollar grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to make a more affordable anti-malaria drug through synthetic biology.

Jack Newman, PhD, Amyris Biotechnologies VP: "This was technology that was really great for the current application of making an anti-malarial drug and we said, great, pharmaceuticals, that's a wonderful model and then we realized, our market is in Africa and they make less than a dollar a day."

So they decided to aim for a more lucrative market as well -- bio-fuels -- a clean alternative to petroleum products.

Within months they had $20 million dollars in venture capital funding and a new CEO.

John Melo, Amyris Biotechnologies CEO: "In a way we're creating the next oil."

John Melo was hired away from his job as president of oil giant BP's U.S. fuels operations. He started at Amyris in early January.

John Melo, Amyris Biotechnologies CEO: "I'm not a believer in, 'we will put big oil out of business' at all. I think the world needs big oil and the world needs companies like us."

And how does he see the company's potential?

John Melo, Amyris Biotechnologies CEO: "I believe by 2011, 2012 we'll be a $10 billion dollar company."

In company president Kinkead Reiling's office, a painted rock reads, "If you want to predict the future, invent it."

He thinks Amyris fuels will be available at the pump in 5 to 10 years.

ABC7's Heather Ishimaru: "You think 5 to 10 years is a realistic timeline?"
Kinkead Reiling: "Yes, definitely."

Synthetic biology and Amyris could be compared to the computer industry 30 years ago.

Neil Renninger, PhD, Amyris Biotechnologies VP: "There's a little bit of wild west about it. There's a lot of energy, a lot of new ideas, and because of that there's a lot of progress that happens very quickly, and not necessarily by increments but by leaps and bounds."

Watch for that next leap to be an initial public offering.

To learn more about how Amyris was formed, how it got its name and its founders, read The Back Story.

- - -

Inside Amyris: The Name, The People, The Beginning

The Back Story
By Heather Ishimaru

Jan. 29 - KGO - UC Berkeley scientist Jay Keasling was the unsung hero of the broadcast piece. He was the magnet that drew together the three post-doc candidates who now form Amyris Biotechnologies. Keasling was an equal partner in the creation of the company and is a board member, though he does not work at the Amyris office like the three principles. Vice President of Research, Jack Newman says it was over "lots of bad Chinese food and good wine" at Keasling's house that the concept of Amyirs was born.

So what is "Amyris," anyway? Is it a made-up name? No, according to Newman, it "is an oil that comes from the Amyris balsamifera plant. It was cultivated as a replacement for Sandalwood when the supply of Sandalwood became low and price became high." Ah ha& very clever, makes sense, eh?

Amyris' next-generation biofuel could be used in current cars without any engine modifications. The new fuel could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 to 90 percent as compared with petroleum products. And biofuel isn't the only part of the petroleum market that could take a hit from Amyris products. Anything that involves oil as an ingredient could be produced by Amyris and its engineered molecules.

It's hard to imagine that VP of Development, Neil Renninger, is only 32. President Kinkead Reiling is only a bit older than that. And Newman is the old guy at 40. They were about 6 years younger when the idea for Amyris came together in Keasling's lab. One might not always associate market smarts with lab smarts. But this is one case where the parties are apparently multi-talented.

For Newman, Amyris is the fulfillment of a childhood dream. He was 14-years old, taking classes at Santa Rosa Community College, when he learned about the potential of what's now known as synthetic biology. It captured his imagination, and he dedicated his academic life to the goal he's now achieved.

- - -

Cal to be hub for study of alternate fuel
Group headed by UC Berkeley wins $500 million grant from BP

- Rick DelVecchio, Mark Martin, Chronicle Staff Writers
Thursday, February 1, 2007

An unprecedented $500 million grant to develop new biofuels has been awarded to a consortium led by UC Berkeley, making the Cal campus the international hub of research on clean energy and the Bay Area the potential crucible of a new post-oil economy.

Sources in Sacramento said Wednesday that UC Berkeley, teamed with the University of Illinois, has won a hard-fought international competition to land the Energy Biosciences Institute, funded by British Petroleum.

The oil giant announced last June that it would stake half a billion dollars over 10 years on the search for alternatives to oil and gas and was looking for a major academic center to host the project, which it described as the first of its kind in the world.

The center will fund "radical research aimed at probing the emerging secrets of bioscience and applying them to the production of new and cleaner energy, principally fuels for road transport," according to an announcement on the company's Web site.

BP's U.S. chief Robert Malone will join Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Director Steven Chu at a news conference at Cal this morning. A campus spokesman declined to give details.

Schwarzenegger hosted a top BP executive in his Sacramento office late last year as part of an effort to win the grant.

The institute is to be housed at the national lab in the Berkeley hills above the campus and will be the richest alternative energy-research center in the world, according to a Sacramento source.

British Petroleum chose UC Berkeley over other major research universities in the United States and the United Kingdom, according to the source.

A spokesman for Schwarzenegger noted that California's recent effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions helped persuade BP to spend the money in the state.

"California is yet again leading the world on clean energy,'' said Adam Mendelsohn, Schwarzenegger's communications director.

As part of the grant, the state is expected to pitch in $40 million to build the new research facility. The money would come from lease-revenue bonds, which would have to be approved by the Legislature.

Illinois, meanwhile, is a major producer of corn-based ethanol, and the University of Illinois houses the Institute of Genomic Biology, a research center on alternative fuels.

UC Berkeley Professor Dan Kammen, who directs Cal's Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, said the university has more energy experts than any other academic center in the world.

"I happen to think we have the best group of researchers," he said. "The group is growing. There are people being recruited here just because of other projects."

Chris Voigt, an assistant professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at UCSF, said UC Berkeley has become the focus of funding for energy research.

"It really is a global effort that's converging at Berkeley," he said.

The research promises multiple benefits:

-- Reducing carbon emissions as a hedge against catastrophic global warming.

-- Creating jobs and wealth through new industries.

-- Giving an economic boost to rural America through the production of new fuel crops.

-- Helping distance the nation economically from a destabilized Middle East.

The BP grant will expand collaborations that have been building among UC Berkeley departments and between the campus and the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab to explore ideas for clean fuels. It will buy added expertise and technology for investigators pursuing one of the major goals of the research: to replace petroleum as the country's leading transportation fuel.

UC Berkeley has been aggressively moving to become the world's research-and-development center for alternative fuels. The university, working with the national lab, where many faculty members hold joint appointments, is combining its expertise in engineering and the life sciences to bring clean energy technologies to consumers in the next 10 to 20 years.

One focus is solar power, in which researchers are developing more powerful, cheaper ways to convert sunlight to electricity and fuel.

Another focus is bioengineering, in which scientists are designing new genetic operating systems that code specially bred microbes to make hydrocarbons, which could be brewed in mass quantities for transportation fuel.

Scientists predict that biofuels will become a critical part of the U.S. economy's shift from oil.

"Twenty-five percent of our gasoline could go away and be replaced with biofuels, a combination of ethanol and bio-diesels, in a decade or decade-and-half time frame," Kammen said.

The university's center of bioengineering research is chemical engineering Professor Jay Keasling's lab in West Berkeley, where workers snip and add wild plant genes in order to code bacteria and yeast cells to make profuse quantities of useful chemicals.

The first such product to emerge from the group's work is a chemical that is the basis for the drug commonly used to treat malaria. Keasling's group is working to extend that success to create other drugs and bioengineered fuels, such as ethanol and butanol.

Six researchers in Keasling's group have been detailed to hunt for wild plant genes that may be suitable engines for fuel production. The new grant should add more researchers to Keasling's operation.

Studying plants that secrete waxy compounds, the researchers think they'll be able to code microbes to make certain combustible carbon chains. If their hunch proves out, further tinkering could lead to the development of various bioengineered fuels, of which the simplest, ethanol, is likely to be first out.

Nobody can say how economical biofuels will turn out to be. Large-scale production would require enormous amounts of plant material to create the sugars microbes feed on. Scientists have to find ways to access the energy tied up in the woody parts of crop plants, such as corn. Either that, or design new strains of plants that easily give up all their energy in the form of sugar.

Fuel crops would take up farmland that might otherwise be used for food.

"Trying to convert the energy economy into a biofuels-based economy right now seems to me strikingly difficult," Voigt said. "What has to happen is to create a niche which, due to market forces rather than research dollars, pushes and builds it to a scale that's conceivable."

Berkeley and the region will play a major part in the shift, he said.

"This is bringing in a huge amount of money to the Bay Area," Voigt said. "It's already resulting in the creation of companies. It's going to be a huge industry here. With California a strong agricultural economy, it's just going to be enormous."

See also:

February 2006: Oil Companies Discuss Energy Challenges
When some of the industry's top executives gather in Houston next week to discuss global energy challenges, finding new and more effective ways to produce oil and gas - as well as alternatives to fossil fuels - will dominate the discussion. And, as the year progresses, expect to see industry leaders - including the chiefs of ConocoPhillips and Royal Dutch Shell PLC's U.S. division - speaking in cities across America in an unprecedented campaign to educate consumers on energy related issues and discuss topics such as ethanol and renewable fuels. It's also an opportunity for the companies to polish their images.

Bio jet fuel breakthrough?
Diversified Energy of Phoenix, Arizona announced today that it has licensed a new biofuel technology from North Carolina State University that looks promising for generating high performance fuels from renewable oils. One of its first target markets: jet fuel, a challenging and complex fuel that has previously received little attention by the biofuels industry.

Biofuels Boom Raises Tough Questions
The problem is, ethanol really isn't ready for prime time. The only economical way to make ethanol right now is with corn, which means the burgeoning industry is literally eating America's lunch, not to mention its breakfast and dinner. And though ethanol from corn may have some minor benefits with regard to energy independence, most analysts conclude its environmental benefits are questionable at best.

H2CAR could fuel entire U.S. transportation sector
A new process which combines carbon from biomass and hydrogen from wind or other renewable energy sources could supply the liquid hydrocarbons needed for transportation without over-use of land area to grow biomass instead of food - until we come upon a better idea that is.

University of Wisconsin Engineers Develop Higher-Energy Liquid-Transportation Fuel from Sugar
A University of Wisconsin press release, announced that university chemical and biological engineering Professor James Dumesic and his research team have developed a two-stage process for turning biomass-derived sugar, fructose, into 2,5-dimethylfuran (DMF), a liquid transportation fuel with 40 percent greater energy density than ethanol, similar to that of gasoline.


posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Saturday February 3 2007
updated on Wednesday November 12 2008

URL of this article:


Related Articles

Sweet Wormwood Heals Malaria
According to an article in The Times, a Chinese herb known as Qing Hao, sweet wormwood or artemisia annua L. is being grown massively to help end the reign of malaria, one of the major killer diseases in Africa, which has become resistant to our standard quinine-based drugs. The extract made from the herb, artemisinin, has been shown to cut the death rate in those treated with it by 97%.... [read more]
July 17, 2004 - Sepp Hasslberger

Biodiesel Not Sustainable: Will Starve The Poor
The Guardian has published an article by Georges Monbiot which discusses the implications of widespread use of "biofuels", as advocated by several environmentalists. Biofuels are fuels grown as agricultural crops such as rape, soy, oilpalms, sunflowers or peanuts. In his article, titled "Feeding Cars, Not People", Monbiot predicts that the use of agriculture for fuel production will have a disastrous impact on the food supply for the people of this... [read more]
November 23, 2004 - Sepp Hasslberger

'Biofuels' Hard Choice: Want Food or Fuel?
It's been just over two year ago that Georges Monbiot warned us of the dark side of an apparently good idea: replacing petroleum based fuels with others based on bio-mass. My article reporting on this drew some critical comments, but the initial fears seem to be borne out now as we are getting closer to implementing the biofuel option. In May 2005, US president Bush urged widespread adoption of both... [read more]
December 14, 2006 - Sepp Hasslberger

Will 2006 Bring Free Energy Breakthrough?
We have been somewhat thoughtless in our choice of energy technologies in the past, perhaps sidetracked by commercial interests vested in the exploitation, transformation and sale of oil. Not that there weren't any other choices we could have made years ago. We probably would not have wars to control the oil and to preserve the petrodollar, if these choices had been made in time. Now, climate change and oil prices... [read more]
January 02, 2006 - Sepp Hasslberger

Will Hydrinos Replace Oil As Power Source?
Randall Mills of Blacklight Power has been working for years perfecting a discovery that could change not only the way we make and use energy but also bring a host of new materials. Mills says that hydrogen, the most abundant element, has a hidden store of energy locked up inside it. He has found a way to unlock that store and extract energy from hydrogen atoms by changing the electron's... [read more]
November 05, 2005 - Sepp Hasslberger




Readers' Comments

Security code:

Please enter the security code displayed on the above grid

Due to our anti-spamming policy the comments you are posting will show up online within few hours from the posting time.



The Individual Is Supreme And Finds Its Way Through Intuition


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

These articles are brought to you strictly for educational and informational purposes. Be sure to consult your health practitioner of choice before utilizing any of the information to cure or mitigate disease. Any copyrighted material cited is used strictly in a non commercial way and in accordance with the "fair use" doctrine.



Enter your Email

Powered by FeedBlitz



Most Popular Articles
Lipitor: Side Effects And Natural Remedy

Lipitor - The Human Cost

Fluoride Accumulates in Pineal Gland

Original blueprints for 200 mpg carburetor found in England

Medical system is leading cause of death and injury in US

Aspartame and Multiple Sclerosis - Neurosurgeon's Warning

'Bird Flu', SARS - Biowarfare or a Pandemic of Propaganda?



More recent articles
Chromotherapy in Cancer

Inclined Bed Therapy: Tilt your bed for healthful sleep

European Food Safety Authority cherry picks evidence - finds Aspartame completely safe

Did Aspartame kill Cory Terry?

Retroviral particles in human immune defenses - is AIDS orthodoxy dead wrong?

Vaccine damage in Great Britain: The consequences of Dr Wakefield’s trials

Archive of all articles on this site



Most recent comments
Uganda: Pfizer Sponsored AIDS Institute Snubs Natural Treatment Options

Lipitor: Side Effects And Natural Remedy

AIDS: 'No Gold Standard' For HIV Testing

Lipitor: Side Effects And Natural Remedy

'Global Business Coalition' Wants More Testing: But Tests Do Not Show AIDS



Candida International

What Does MHRA Stand For??

Bono and Bush Party without Koch: AIDS Industry Makes a Mockery of Medical Science

Profit as Usual and to Hell with the Risks: Media Urge that Young Girls Receive Mandatory Cervical Cancer Vaccine


Share The Wealth

Artificial Water Fluoridation: Off To A Poor Start / Fluoride Injures The Newborn

Drinking Water Fluoridation is Genotoxic & Teratogenic

Democracy At Work? - PPM On Fluoride

"Evidence Be Damned...Patient Outcome Is Irrelevant" - From Helke

Why Remove Fluoride From Phosphate Rock To Make Fertilizer


Evolving Collective Intelligence

Let Us Please Frame Collective Intelligence As Big As It Is

Reflections on the evolution of choice and collective intelligence

Whole System Learning and Evolution -- and the New Journalism

Gathering storms of unwanted change

Protect Sources or Not? - More Complex than It Seems



Islanda, quando il popolo sconfigge l'economia globale.

Il Giorno Fuori dal Tempo, Il significato energetico del 25 luglio

Rinaldo Lampis: L'uso Cosciente delle Energie

Attivazione nei Colli Euganei (PD) della Piramide di Luce

Contatti con gli Abitanti Invisibili della Natura


Diary of a Knowledge Broker

Giving It Away, Making Money

Greenhouses That Change the World

Cycles of Communication and Collaboration

What Is an "Integrated Solution"?

Thoughts about Value-Add




Best sellers from