The 34th Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals, organized by Society for Industrial Microbiology & Biotechnology, was held April 30- May 3, 2012, in New Orleans, LA. The conference brought together students, researchers, and representatives from industry, academia, and governments. Over 700 attendees heard presentations in the topics of Plant Science & Technology; Biomass Supply & Sustainability; Biomass Physicochemical Analysis; Biomass Recalcitrance; Pretreatment & Fractionation; Enzyme, Bacterial, Yeast & Fungal, and Algae Science & Technology; Biobased Chemicals; Emerging Biofuels; Bioprocessing & Separations Technology; and Biofuels & Biorefinery Economics & Commercialization. This year included three parallel tracks, comprising of 108 oral presentations. Three additional evening sessions were also offered with either poster exhibition or special discussion topics.
It was truly an international meeting with 35% of the attendees from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chili, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Norway, Peru, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Uruguay. Outside the U.S., the greatest delegation came from Brazil and Korea with about 45 attendees from each country. The total attendance for the meeting was 751.
This meeting has always been a meeting attended by graduate students and their advisors, and this year was no exception. 155 students attended and gave excellent presentations for a captive audience. One of the highlights of the conference was the two poster sessions that were held on Monday and Tuesday evening, when students presented their work on 158 posters.
On Wednesday evening, a special topic titled US & International Bioenergy Research Center Updates was held. This session was well attended and highlighted some of the research goal and process together with management principles and coordination efforts of bioenergy centers around the world. Centers from United Kingdom, Japan, and the U.S. were among the presenters.
The organizers of the meeting honored two individuals with awards. Dr. Jens Nielsen from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden received the Charles D. Scott Award and Mr. John Ferrell of the U.S. Department of Energy received the Raphael Katzen Award. The CD Scott Award recognizes individuals who have made distinguished contributions to enable and further the use of biotechnology to produce fuels and chemicals, and the Katzen Award recognizes individuals who have made distinguished contributions to enable and further the deployment and commercialization of biotechnology to produce fuels and chemicals. Dr. Nielsen is a well respected research professor and entrepreneur who have published over 330 research papers and is an inventor of more than 50 patents. Mr. Farrell has been actively involved with the advancement of feedstock supply system and energy crop development and as well as a champion of the Billion Ton Study, which provides the foundation for recent and future United States bioenergy assessments.
Two student awards to the best posters were also handed out. Christine Roche from University of California at Berkley won for her work on engineering filamentous fungi for increased production of lignocellulose-derived lipids. Keith Gourlay from University of British Columbia won for his work on the potential application of substructure-specific carbohydrate binding molecules to track changes in cellulose surface morphology during the initial stages of hydrolysis.
Special Topic Summary
A special topics session was held at the 34th Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals, organized by Society for Industrial Microbiology & Biotechnology, was held April 30- May 3, 2012, in New Orleans, LA. This year’s topic was titled US & International Bioenergy Research Center Updates. This topic was first introduced in 2010 and during the last two years bioenergy research centers and institutes continue to focus on developing fundamental knowledge and applied technology for production of biomass-derived fuels and chemicals. Invited speakers from the three U.S. Department of Energy bioenergy research centers, the privately funded Joint BioEnergy Institute, the United Kingdom Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s Sustainable Bioenergy Center, and Japan Biomass Technology Research Center enlightened the audience of their present research goals and progress over the last couple years. Dr. Angela Karp (U.K.), Dr. Kinya Sakanishi (Japan), Dr. Paul Gilna (BioEnergy Science Center), Dr. Blake Simmons (Joint BioEnergy Institute), Dr. Timothy Donohue (Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center), and Dr. Chris Somerville (Energy Biosciences Institute) also participated in a panel discussion to discuss the future fate of bioenergy and coordinating efforts.
What: Inaugural series on topics related to science and society, open to the public
Where: American Society for Microbiology headquarters, 1752 N St., NW, Washington, DC
When: Thursday May 17, 6-8pm
Who: Contact Darya Pilram, Science and Health Diplomacy Research Assistant, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Neal Connors, Phoenix BioConsulting LLC and President, Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology, will speak on The Impact of Fermentation on the United States Department of Energy’s List of the Top Value Added Chemicals from Biomass.
Beer Tasting to follow – sponsored by local breweries.
This new series of monthly happy hours/interactive lectures is intended to be something along the lines of “Mad Science” to be held at ASM’s international headquarters in Washington, DC. We’re hoping to reach out to microbiologists, scientists, and others in the community who may be interested in topics related to science and society.
SIMB’s 62nd Annual Meeting will be August 12-16 at the Washington Hilton Hotel. Here are some selected session highlights. For more info, visit the meeting web site.
Enzyme engineering and directed evolution
Convener: Nobu Tokuriki, Univ. of British Columbia
Directed evolution has been applied to many enzymes and successful to engineer their properties. Recent theoretical and technological advances expand a potential to create novel enzymes for industrial applications. In this session, we will discuss a frontier in enzyme engineering and directed evolution.
Enzymes for biomass treatment
Convener: Debbie Yaver, Novozymes
To enable second generation ethanol and advanced biofuels production from lignocellulosic biomass enzymes for cost effective hydrolysis are needed. This session will focus on recent discoveries in enzymes for biomass hydrolysis including high temperature and halophillic cellulases. New insights into mechanisms of fungal glycosyl hydrolases and oxidative enzymes will also be discussed.
Bioremediation and Biodegradation
Convener: Melanie Mormile, Missouri M&T
The use of microorganisms for remediating contaminated sites provides more environmentally friendly methods than more conventional methodologies. In our session, we will cover topics ranging from metal (chromium and mercury) remediation, the latest insights into hydrocarbon biodegradation, and the state of the science for munitions degradation.
Convener: Melanie Mormile, Missouri M&T
Due to depletion of fossil fuels and the effects from burning these fuels, it is crucial that new forms of energy, especially renewal sources, be developed. Hydrogen is attractive as an alternative form of energy as it can be formed from biomass and when used, produces water as an innocuous waste product. Our session will cover the latest research on biohydrogen production. The topics covered will include dark fermentation reactions, hydrogen production from cyanobacteria, the use of thermophiles for hydrogen production to genetic modifications to microorganisms to enhance hydrogen production.
Advances in microbial fuel cells
Electroactive biofilms (EABs) are heterogeneous microbial community that conserve energy through extracellular electron transfer to solid surfaces and electrodes. The session will focus on EABs and their application to bioelectricity production in Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs). In the first part, the speakers will report recent fundamental advances in EAB characterization through direct electrochemistry and microbiological methods. In the second part, the focus will be on MFCs for wastewater treatment and bioremediation, both at laboratory and pilot plant scale.
Zero waste technologies for biofuels production: Impacts of extremophiles and their enzymes
Convener: Rajesh Sani, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
It is now widely accepted that extremophilic microbes including thermophiles are recognized as one of the most efficient microbial groups in the conversion of solid wastes including lignocellulosic biomass into biofuels. For example, advantages of using thermostable cellulases, xylanases for lignocellulose degradation include higher stability (greater half-lives, allowing elongated hydrolysis times), low viscosity (increased solubility of reactants and products), increased flexibility for the process configurations, reduced risk of contamination, and lower energy cost for cooling in case of thermal pre-treatment of substrates. Therefore, carrying out hydrolysis and/or fermentation at higher temperature will ultimately lead to improved process performance through decreased enzyme dosage and reduced lignocellulose degradation time, thus, resulting in decreased costs. This session will discuss advantages and limitations of solid waste conversion technologies using Extremophiles and Their Enzymes.
Fermentation and Cell Culture
Evolution, adaptation, mutation and selection in fermentation
Convener: Helia Radianingtyas
Evolution, adaptation and selection in fermentation This session will focus on the advances in microbial dynamic under specific environment, as well as the impact of selective pressures and changes on population selection. Furthermore, the implication of this prolonged treatment at genome level will also be discussed.
Specialty chemicals/materials from renewable resources
Convener: Kristala J. Prather, MIT
New tools, methodologies and pathways in metabolic engineering have brought forth a number of systems for the biological production of chemicals, with many heading towards commercial production. This session will focus on advancements for the microbial production of specialty chemicals and materials from renewable resources.
Natural product biosynthesis, structure, and function
Convener: Douglas Mitchell, U. of Ill
Topics for this session cover diverse examples of natural product biosynthesis, including the elucidation of chemical structure and biological function. Although ribosomal and non-ribosomal peptide derived compounds are of interest, our talks are not restricted to such natural products.
Natural products from unusual sources
Convener: David Newman, NIH
Antibiotics in the widest sense of the term have usually been found from terrestrial sources via fermentation, but the search using microbes has dwindled due to “finding the same old, same old compounds”. However, with the discovery that microbes have significant numbers of “cryptic secondary metabolite clusters,” has come the realization that control of these clusters may well produce molecules that have not been reported from microbes, be they well studied or not even known previously. This symposium will help to show how modification of assays and fermentation conditions coupled to a knowledge of genomics may well be the “new frontier” in discovery, utilizing sources old and new.
Synthetic Biology Tools and Applications
Convener: Christopher Voight, MIT
This session will focus on methodologies to accelerate genetic engineering. Topics will include next-generation computer-aided design (CAD), the characterization of genetic parts, and the construction of large genetic systems.
Roundtable on Women in Science
Convener: Joan W. Bennett, Rutgers
Included in this year’s program is a roundtable entitled “Women in Science with an emphasis on the role of women in SIMB, and how to inspire young women to pursue a career in the sciences. During the history of SIMB eight women have served as presidents, three have won the Thom award, and seven women have been appointed Fellows. The overall theme for discussion will be what inspired the participants to get involved in industrial. Participants will also share the importance of mentors, obstacles, and the individual perspective of women in science now. Attendees then will be encouraged to share their experiences as students and professionals in science. Based on the discussions and feedback, consideration will be given to the formation of a women’s committee to promote contributions by women to SIMB.
Next generation DNA sequencing technologies and applications
Convener: Jon Armstrong, Cofactor Genomics, Inc.
Next-generation sequencing and analysis provides the ability to assess the genomic organization and regulatory processes of organisms at a previously unimagined resolution. This session will bring together execution and thought leaders, from molecular biology and bioinformatics, to present current strategies and challenges associated with generating, analyzing, and utilizing next-generation sequencing data.
Congratulations to the winners of the 2012 SIMB election for board of directors. The new board members will begin their terms of office with the annual business meeting to be held Wednesday, August 15, during the SIMB Annual Meeting at the Washington Hilton, Washington, DC
Leonard Katz, Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center, University of California
Robert Donofrio, NSF International
Jonathan Mielenz, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Many thanks to all of the nominees for their support of SIMB.
Meet the Candidates for the 2012 SIMB election. The election will close March 31, 2012. See what each candidate has to say about their SIMB experience and their outlook for the future. Full bios for each candidate are published in November/December SIMB News as well as on the voting site. To access the voting site please login to the SIMB members area. If you have not renewed your 2012 SIMB membership for 2012, renew now to remain eligible to vote. Reminder: Student members are not eligible to vote.