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JBEI Polyketide Synthases Portfolio for Production of Chemicals and Fuels
EJIB-2820, EJIB-2825, EIB-2878, EJIB-2982, EJIB-3014

Production of the following from sugar or starch:



Researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have developed a suite of technologies employing Type 1 polyketide synthases (PKS)—multi-functional enzymes synthetically programmable at the gene level. These technologies yield high value chemicals from sugars or starches to provide a direct alternative for obtaining products currently manufactured from petroleum-based materials or create entirely new materials.

PKS employ short chain fatty acyl CoAs in Claisen condensation reactions to produce polyketides. Unlike fatty acid synthases that use a single module iteratively to produce the nascent chains, PKS are composed of discreet modules, each catalyzing the chain growth of a single step. Modules can differ from each other in composition, and a number of different starters and extenders can be incorporated. Synthesis of a desired compound can be programmed by selection and genetic manipulation of PKS.

The JBEI PKS portfolio utilizes modules that incorporate a variety of extenders, resulting in different side chains. In addition to offering an alternative approach for yielding products currently manufactured from petroleum, JBEI’s PKS technologies offer the flexibility to engineer products with characteristics that have not been achieved before or that have been too expensive to produce otherwise.

The PKS system kinetics are likely suitable for commercial production of the noted products since the individual catalytic steps of PKS synthesis are identical to those associated with fatty acid biosynthesis. Some natural polyketide producers yield 80 or more grams per liter of much larger compounds. 

The JBEI PKS portfolio includes:

Descriptions of each invention in the portfolio follow.

STATUS: Published PCT patent applications WO/2012/058686 and WO/2012/071439 (available at and published US patent applications 2012/0219998 and 2012/0219971 (available at Available for licensing or collaborative research.

REFERENCE NUMBERS: EJIB-2820, EJIB-2825, EIB-2878, EJIB-2982, EJIB-3014

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Biological Production of Even Chain and Odd Chain Dicarboxylic Acids and other Nylon Precursors Using Engineered PKS
EJIB-2820, EJIB-2982, EJIB-3014


JBEI researchers have developed a technology to synthesize dicarboxylic acids (diacids), lactams and terminal amino acids using an engineered type 1 PKS system. These compounds are currently synthesized from starting materials extracted from petroleum and are often used in the manufacture of commercial polymers. Applications of the diacid-polymers include nylon, polyesters, adhesives, lubricants or precursors to pharmaceuticals.

The invention also includes a route to produce biotin. Current methods of producing biotin biologically are limited by poor production of the precursor 7-keto-8-amino-pelargonic acid. The Berkeley Lab route circumvents this bottleneck for a greater possible yield of biotin.

JBEI has also developed a high throughput screening method to detect the production of diacids. This will facilitate the rapid development and deployment of this diacid technology.

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Biosynthesis of Isooctane Precursor using Engineered PKS


JBEI researchers have developed a PKS route to synthesize precursors of isooctane. Isooctane is a petroleum-based component of gasoline. Until now, there has not been a biological pathway to isooctane.

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Diacid Production from Fatty Acid Biosynthesis

A suite of diacids of varying chain lengths can be produced from fatty acid biosynthesis. The technology offers similar advantages as producing diacids from the PKS pathway and may be more efficient than PKS pathway for shorter chain diacids.

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The Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI, is a scientific partnership led by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and including the Sandia National Laboratories, the University of California campuses of Berkeley and Davis, the Carnegie Institution for Science and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. JBEI’s primary scientific mission is to advance the development of the next generation of biofuels.


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Last updated: 04/09/2013