Synthetic biology for production of sustainable fuels and chemicals from renewable or waste carbon

Adam M. Guss, Biosciences Division, Center for Bioenergy Innovation, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN



Climate change mitigation will require the replacement of fossil fuels and chemicals with sustainable ones. Synthetic biology can be used to create microorganisms that produce sustainable replacements for these fuels and chemicals from renewable feedstocks, but challenges remain. Some microbes are able to grow on difficult-to-eat feedstocks like carbon dioxide, plant biomass, and plastics, but these organisms are typically hard to genetically modify. The Guss lab at ORNL specializes in developing genetic engineering tools for these microbes, and then applying these tools to engineer the bacteria to produce fuels and industrial chemicals. Using this approach, we are engineering bacteria to eat breakdown products from modern plastics and convert them into next-generation building blocks for high-performance polymers that are also biodegradable. We are also engineering microbes to produce sustainable aviation fuel and discovering new metabolic pathways that can be used for further bioengineering. Using synthetic biology, we are helping to build the foundation for a sustainable future.

Adam Guss in the lab


Biographical Sketch:

Dr. Adam M. Guss

Biosciences Division

Center for Bioenergy Innovation

 Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Oak Ridge, TN 37831

Dr. Adam Guss is a Genetic and Metabolic Engineer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Dr. Guss received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign in the Department of Microbiology studying the electron transport pathways used by members of the Archaea to produce methane. He was a Microbial Sciences Initiative Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University studying the phylogenetic and metabolic diversity of non-cultured and rarely cultured bacteria present in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients. He then worked in Lee Lynd’s research group at Dartmouth College as a Postdoctoral Researcher and Research Scientist as a member of the BioEnergy Science Center (BESC), improving genetic tools and metabolic engineering of Clostridium thermocellum for production of biofuels from cellulosic biomass. Dr. Guss’ current research utilizes genetics and synthetic biology to engineer microbes to convert lignocellulosic plant biomass and plastic waste into liquid fuels and other value-added products. He is also the ORNL Principal Investigator for the Agile BioFoundry and the BOTTLE Consortium.