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Biotechnology for Biofuels

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Dr Jean Marie Francois

Jean Marie Francois received his PhD in Agronomy and Biological Chemistry from The Catholic University of Louvain La Neuve in 1988. After several post-doctoral periods in USA (North Carolina State University), France (Université de Bordeaux II et CNRS Gif sur Yvette), Brazil (University Sao Paulo) and University Louvain La Neuve, he became full professor at the Institute National des Sciences Appliquées, Federal University of Toulouse in 1993 and reached the exceptional class in 2009. Since then, he created and still manages two research groups (about 25 persons including two associate professors, four senior researchers, 10 technical engineers, four PhD students and five Post-docs) dealing with Integrated Physiology and Functional genomics of microbial systems (PHYGE team; at the Laboratory of Engineering of Biological Systems and Biological Process, CNRS 5504 & INRA 792. The research activity of his group encompasses three themes:

(i) Yeast cell wall assembly and biogenesis

(ii) Functional genomics in yeast and filamentous fungi with a focus on carbon metabolism and regulation

(iii) Synthetic and refactoring microbial metabolism, with a focus on exploitation of renewable biomass for bio-based products production, with a Bioeconomy vision of these activities

His works has been or are currently supported by EU program and industrial grants (Adisseo SA, Lallemand Inc, Tate and Lyle, Lesaffre, etc.). Applications are in White Biotechnology (biorefinery, flavours, probiotic /feed additives), agro-nutrition and pharmaceutical industries. Prof. Jean M. François is author/co-author of more than 180 peer reviewed papers and 15 patents. He is also co-founder of Dendris SAS, a biotech start up exploiting nanotechnology tools from in vivo Molecular Diagnostics.

Mike Himmel

Dr Michael Himmel

Dr Himmel has 30 years of progressive experience in conducting, supervising, and planning research in protein biochemistry, recombinant technology, enzyme engineering, new microorganism discovery, and the physicochemistry of macromolecules. He has also supervised research that targets the application of site-directed-mutagenesis and rational protein design to the stabilization and improvement of important industrial enzymes, especially glycosyl hydrolases.

 Dr Himmel has functioned as PI for the DOE EERE Office of the Biomass Program (OBP) since 1992, wherein his responsibilities have included managing research designed to improve cellulase performance, reduce biomass pretreatment costs, and improve yields of fermentable sugars. He has also developed new facilities at NREL for biomass conversion research, including a Cellulase Biochemistry Laboratory, a Biomass Surface Characterization Laboratory, a Protein Crystallography Laboratory, and a new Computational Science Team. Dr. Himmel also serves as the Principal Group Manger of the Biomolecular Sciences Group, where he has supervisory responsibly for 50 staff scientists.

Debra Mohnen

Professor Debra Mohnen

Professor Mohnen received her B.A. in biology from Lawrence University (Wisconsin) and her MS in botany and PhD in plant biology from the University of Illinois. Her PhD research was conducted at the Friedrich Miescher Institute in Basel, Switzerland. She held postdoctoral research associate positions at the USDA's Richard Russell Research Center and at the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center (CCRC) in Athens, GA where she won an NIH National Research Service Award for her postdoctoral research. She was appointed to the CCRC faculty in September 1990 and is currently Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and also adjunct faculty member in the Department of Plant Biology and member of the Plant Center at UGA.

Professor Mohnen has served on the Committee on the Status of Women in Plant Physiology of the American Society of Plant Physiologists, invited faculty sponsor for the UGA Association for Women in Science (AWIS), past member-at-large in the Cellulose and Renewable Materials Division of the American Chemical Society, and is currently a member of the Council for Chemical and Biochemical Sciences, Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences Division in the Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Office of Science, U.S. Department of Energy.

As Co-PI on the NSF-funded “Plant Cell Wall Biosynthesis Research Network”, Professor Mohnen established the originally NSF-funded service “CarboSource Services”, that provides rare substrates for plant wall polysaccharide synthesis to the research community. Her research centers on the biosynthesis, function and structure of plant cell wall polysaccharides is supported by funding from the USDA, NSF and DOE. Her emphasis is on pectin biosynthesis and pectin function in plants and human health, and on the improvement of plant cell wall structure so as to improve the efficiency of conversion of plant wall biomass to biofuels.

Charles Weyman

Professor Charles Wyman

Professor Wyman has devoted most of his career to leading advancement of technologies for biological conversion of cellulosic biomass to ethanol and other products. Dr. Wyman is currently Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Environmental Engineering and Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering at the University of California in Riverside with research focused on pretreatment, enzymatic hydrolysis, and dehydration of cellulosic biomass to produce reactive intermediates for conversion into fuels and chemicals. Prior to joining UCR in the fall of 2005, he was the Paul E. and Joan H. Queneau Distinguished Professor in Environmental Engineering Design at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College. Dr. Wyman recently founded Vertimass LLC to commercialize novel catalytic technology for one-step conversion of ethanol into fungible gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel blend stocks. Dr. Wyman is also cofounder and former Chief Development Officer and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board for Mascoma Corporation with the goal to develop advanced biotechnology for biomass conversion to ethanol and other products. 

Before joining Dartmouth College in the fall of 1998, Professor Wyman was Director of Technology for BC International and led process development for the first cellulosic ethanol plant planned for Jennings, Louisiana. Between 1978 and 1997, he served as Director of the Biotechnology Center for Fuels and Chemicals at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado; Director of the NREL Alternative Fuels Division; and Manager of the Biotechnology Research Branch. During that time, he held several other leadership positions at NREL, mostly focused on R&D for biological conversion of cellulosic biomass to fuels and chemicals. He has also been Manager of Process Development for Badger Engineers, an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of New Hampshire, and a Senior Chemical Engineer with Monsanto Company.