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Efficiently Producing Fatty Acids and Biofuels from Glucose
Researchers have presented a new strategy for efficiently producing fatty acids and biofuels that can transform glucose and oleaginous microorganisms into microbial diesel fuel, with one-step direct fermentative production. The newly developed strain, created by Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee and his team, showed the highest efficiency in producing fatty acids and biodiesels ever reported. It will be expected to serve as a new platform to sustainably produce a wide array of fatty acid-based products from glucose and other carbon substrates. Fossil fuels, which have long been energy resources for our daily lives, are now facing serious challenges: depletion of their reserves and their role in global warming. The production of sustainable bio-based renewable energy has emerged as an essential alternative and many studies to replace fossil fuels are underway. One of the representative examples is biodiesel. Currently, it is mainly being produced through the transesterification of vegetable oils or animal fats. The research team engineered oleaginous microorganisms, Rhodococcus opacus, to produce fatty acids and their derivatives that can be used as biodiesel from glucose, one of the most abundant and cheap sugars derived from non-edible biomass. Professor Lee’s team has already engineered Escherichia coli to produce short-chain hydrocarbons, which can be used as gasoline (published in Nature as the cover paper in 2013). However, the production efficiency of the short-chain hydrocarbons using E. coli (0.58 g/L) fell short of the levels required for commercialization. To overcome these issues, the team employed oil-accumulating Rhodococcus opacus as a host strain in this study. First, the team optimized the cultivation conditions of Rhodococcus opacus to maximize the accumulation of oil (triacylglycerol), which serves as a precursor for the biosynthesis of fatty acids and their derivatives. Then, they systematically analyzed the metabolism of the strain and redesigned it to enable higher levels of fatty acids and two kinds of fatty acid-derived biodiesels (fatty acid ethyl esters and long-chain hydrocarbons) to be produced. They found that the resulting strains produced 50.2, 21.3, and 5.2 g/L of fatty acids, fatty acid ethyl esters, and long-chain hydrocarbons, respectively. These are all the highest concentrations ever reported by microbial fermentations. It is expected that these strains can contribute to the future industrialization of microbial-based biodiesel production. “This technology creates fatty acids and biodiesel with high efficiency by utilizing lignocellulose, one of the most abundant resources on the Earth, without depending on fossil fuels and vegetable or animal oils. This will provide new opportunities for oil and petroleum industries, which have long relied on fossil fuels, to turn to sustainable and eco-friendly biotechnologies,” said Professor Lee. This paper titled “Engineering of an oleaginous bacterium for the production of fatty acids and fuels” was published in Nature Chemical Biology on June 17. This work was supported by the Technology Development Program to Solve Climate Changes on Systems Metabolic Engineering for Biorefineries from the Ministry of Science and ICT through the National Research Foundation (NRF) of Korea (NRF-2012M1A2A2026556 and NRF-2012M1A2A2026557). (Figure: Metabolic engineering for the production of free fatty acids (FFAs), fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEEs), and long-chain hydrocarbons (LCHCs) in Rhodococcus opacus PD630. Researchers have presented a new strategy for efficiently producing fatty acids and biofuels that can transform glucose and oleaginous microorganisms into microbial diesel fuel, with one-step direct fermentative production.) # # # Source: Hye Mi Kim, Tong Un Chae, So Young Choi, Won Jun Kim and Sang Yup Lee. Engineering of an oleaginous bacterium for the production of fatty acids and fuels. Nature Chemical Biology ( https://www.nature.com/nchembio/ ) DOI: 10.1038/s41589-019-0295-5 Profile Dr. Sang Yup Lee firstname.lastname@example.org Distinguished Professor at the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering KAIST
Engineered Microbial Production of Grape Flavoring
(Image 1: Engineered bacteria that produce grape flavoring.) Researchers report a microbial method for producing an artificial grape flavor. Methyl anthranilate (MANT) is a common grape flavoring and odorant compound currently produced through a petroleum-based process that uses large volumes of toxic acid catalysts. Professor Sang-Yup Lee’s team at the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering demonstrated production of MANT, a naturally occurring compound, via engineered bacteria. The authors engineered strains of Escherichia coli and Corynebacetrium glutamicum to produce MANT through a plant-based engineered metabolic pathway. The authors tuned the bacterial metabolic pathway by optimizing the levels of AAMT1, the key enzyme in the process. To maximize production of MANT, the authors tested six strategies, including increasing the supply of a precursor compound and enhancing the availability of a co-substrate. The most productive strategy proved to be a two-phase extractive culture, in which MANT was extracted into a solvent. This strategy produced MANT on the scale of 4.47 to 5.74 grams per liter, a significant amount, considering that engineered microbes produce most natural products at a scale of milligrams or micrograms per liter. According to the authors, the results suggest that MANT and other related molecules produced through industrial processes can be produced at scale by engineered microbes in a manner that would allow them to be marketed as natural one, instead of artificial one. This study, featured at the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA on May 13, was supported by the Technology Development Program to Solve Climate Changes on Systems Metabolic Engineering for Biorefineries from the Ministry of Science and ICT. (Image 2. Overview of the strategies applied for the microbial production of grape flavoring.)
Team KAT Wins the Autonomous Car Challenge
(Team KAT receiving the Presidential Award) A KAIST team won the 2018 International Autonomous Car Challenge for University Students held in Daegu on November 2. Professor Seung-Hyun Kong from the ChoChunShik Graduate School of Green Transportation and his team participated in this contest with the team named KAT (KAIST Autonomous Technologies). The team received the Presidential Award with a fifty million won cash prize and an opportunity for a field trip abroad. The competition was conducted on actual roads with Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAV), which incorporate autonomous driving technologies and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication system. In this contest, the autonomous vehicles were given a mission to pick up passengers or parcels. Through the V2X communication, the contest gave current location of the passengers or parcels, their destination, and service profitability according to distance and level of service difficulty. The participating vehicles had to be equipped very accurate and robust navigation system since they had to drive on narrow roads as well as go through tunnels where GPS was not available. Moreover, they had to use camera-based recognition technology that was invulnerable to backlight as the contest was in the late afternoon. The contest scored the mission in the following way: the vehicles get points if they pick up passengers and safely drop them off at their destination; on the other hand, points are deducted when they violate lanes or traffic lights. It will be a major black mark if a participant sitting in the driver’s seat needs to get involved in driving due to a technical issue. Youngbo Shim of KAT said, “We believe that we got major points for technical superiority in autonomous driving and our algorithm for passenger selection.” This contest, hosted by Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, was the first international competition for autonomous driving on actual roads. A total of nine teams participated in the final contest, four domestic teams and five teams allied with overseas universities such as Tsinghua University, Waseda University, and Nanyang Technological University. Professor Kong said, “There is still a long way to go for fully autonomous vehicles that drive flexibly under congested traffic conditions. However, we will continue to our research in order to achieve high-quality autonomous driving technology.” (Team KAT getting ready for the challenge)
Participation in the 2018 Bio-Digital City Workshop in Paris
(A student make a presentatiion during the Bio-Digital City Workshop in Paris last month.) KAIST students explored ideas for developing future cities during the 2018 Bio-Digital City Workshop held in Paris last month. This international workshop hosted by Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie was held under the theme “Biomimicry, Digital City and Big Data.” During the workshop from July 10 to July 20, students teamed up with French counterparts to develop innovative urban design ideas. Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie is the largest science museum in Europe and is operated by Universcience, a specialized institute of science and technology in France. Professor Seongju Chang from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Professor Jihyun Lee of the Graduate School of Culture Technology Students led the students group. Participants presented their ideas and findings on new urban solutions that combine biomimetic systems and digital technology. Each student group analyzed a special natural ecosystem such as sand dunes, jellyfish communities, or mangrove forests and conducted research to extract algorithms for constructing sustainable urban building complexes based on the results. The extracted algorithm was used to conceive a sustainable building complex forming a part of the urban environment by applying it to the actual Parisian city segment given as the virtual site for the workshop. Students from diverse background in both countries participated in this convergence workshop. KAIST students included Ph.D. candidate Hyung Min Cho, undergraduates Min-Woo Jeong, Seung-Hwan Cha, and Sang-Jun Park from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, undergraduate Kyeong-Keun Seo from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, JiWhan Jeong (Master’s course) from the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Ph.D. candidate Bo-Yoon Zang from the Graduate School of Culture Technology. They teamed up with French students from diverse backgrounds, including Design/Science, Visual Design, Geography, Computer Science and Humanities and Social Science. This workshop will serve as another opportunity to expand academic and human exchange efforts in the domain of smart and sustainable cities with Europe in the future as the first international cooperation activity of KAIST and the Paris La Villette Science Museum. Professor Seong-Ju Chang who led the research group said, "We will continue to establish a cooperative relationship between KAIST and the European scientific community. This workshop is a good opportunity to demonstrate the competence of KAIST students and their scientific and technological excellence on the international stage.”
Czech Technology Mission with KAIST
Members of the Czech research community visited KAIST to discuss medium to long-term cooperation with KAIST. This visit was hosted by the Fourth Industrial Revolution Intelligence Center (FIRIC). The community is comprised of people from Czech enterprises and academic institutes that are leading core technologies for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the fields of AI, robotics, and biotechnology. They had a chance to meet KAIST professors and visit research labs. Professor Il-Doo Kim from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Professor Seongsu Kim from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Professor Hyun Uk Kim from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering attended the meeting, which took place in the Mechatronics, Systems, and Control Lab under the Vice President for Planning and Budget Soo Hyun Kim and Professor Kyung Soo Kim from the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Professor Petr Novák from the Technical University of Ostrava said, “It was a meaningful meeting to help understand research trends on industrial robots in Korea.” Professor So Young Kim from FIRIC said, “The Czech research community is strong in basic research where KAIST has outstanding source technology. I hope this visit will open up a path for medium to long-term cooperation on sharing research and technology know-how between the Czech research community and KAIST.”
Three Professors Named KAST Fellows
(Professor Dan Keun Sung at the center) (Professor Y.H. Cho at the center) (Professor K.H. Cho at the center) The Korean Academy of Science and Technology (KAST) inducted three KAIST professors as fellows at the New Year’s ceremony held at KAST on January 12. They were among the 24 newly elected fellows of the most distinguished academy in Korea. The new fellows are Professor Dan Keun Sung of the School of Electrical Engineering, Professor Kwang-Hyun Cho of the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering, and Professor Yong-Hoon Cho of the Department of Physics. Professor Sung was recognized for his lifetime academic achievements in fields related with network protocols and energy ICT. He also played a crucial role in launching the Korean satellites KITSAT-1,2,3 and the establishment of the Satellite Technology Research Center at KAIST. Professor Y.H.Cho has been a pioneer in the field of low-dimensional semiconductor-powered quantum photonics that enables quantum optical research in solid state. He has been recognized as a renowned scholar in this field internationally. Professor K.H.Cho has conducted original research that combines IT and BT in systems biology and has applied novel technologies of electronic modeling and computer simulation analysis for investigating complex life sciences. Professor Cho, who is in his 40s, is the youngest fellow among the newly inducted fellows.
Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee Named NAI Fellow
(Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee) Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering was named to the National Academy of Inventors in the US. He is the first Korean scholar ever elected as a NAI fellow. The NAI is a non-profit member organization with over 4,000 individual inventors and fellows spanning more than 250 institutions worldwide. It is comprised of universities as well as governmental and non-profit research institutes. The academy was founded in 2010 to recognize and encourage inventors with patents from the US Patent and Trademark Office. So far, 575 fellows from 229 institutions have been elected. The academy said Professor Lee has been recognized for fellowship induction as he has demonstrated a highly prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society. Distinguished Professor Lee, a pioneering researcher and scholar in the field of systems metabolic engineering, was ranked in the top 1% of highly cited researchers (HCR) this year. Over the past 11 years, he published more than 130,000 articles in prestigious journals around the world. He has been cited more than 34,000 times since he started working at KAIST in 1994. He is also the first Korean ever elected to both the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in the US, becoming the one of 13 foreign scholars in the world holding two prestigious institutions’ fellowships. Dr. Lee is currently the dean of KAIST Institutes, the world-leading institute for multi and interdisciplinary research. He is also serving as co-chair of the Global Council on Biotechnology and is a member of the Global Future Council on the Fourth Industrial Revolution at the World Economic Forum.
Professor Dong Ho Cho Awarded at the Haedong Conference 2017
Professor Dong Ho Cho of the School of Electrical Engineering at KAIST received an award at the 13th Haedong Conference 2017 in Seoul on the first of December. The Korean Institute of Communications and Information Sciences recognized Professor Cho for his significant contributions in the field of mobile communication networks. He has carried out groundbreaking research on mobile systems, including architecture, protocols, algorithms, optimization, and efficiency analysis. As a result, he has produced 73 papers in renowned international journals, 138 papers at international conferences, and filed 52 international patents and 121 domestic patents. In addition, he transferred 14 of the patents he filed to Korean and international companies.
In Jin Cho Earned the Best Poster Prize at ME Summit 2017
In Jin Cho, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at KAIST received the best poster prize at the International Metabolic Engineering Summit 2017 held on October 24 in Beijing, China. The International Metabolic Engineering Summit is a global conference where scientists and corporate researchers in the field of metabolic engineering present their latest research outcomes and build networks. At this year’s summit, about 500 researchers from around the world participated in active academic exchanges, including giving keynote speeches and presenting posters. During the poster session, the summit selects one person for the KeAi-synthetic and Systems Biotechnology Poster Award, two for Microbial Cell Factories Poster Awards, and three for Biotechnology Journal Poster Awards among the posters presented by graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and researchers. Cho received the KeAi-synthetic and Systems Biotechnology Poster Award. Her winning poster is on the biotransformation of p-xylene to terephthalic acid using engineered Escherichia coli. Terephthalic acid is generally produced by p-xylene oxidation; however, this process requires a high temperature and pressure as well as a toxic catalyst during the reaction process. Cho and Ziwei Luo, a Ph.D. student at KAIST, co-conducted the research and developed a successful biological conversion process. Compared to the existing chemical process, it does not require a high temperature and pressure; and it is environmentally friendly with a relatively high conversion rate of approximately 97%. Cho’s advisor, Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee said, “Further research on glucose-derived terephthalic acid will enable us to produce biomass-based eco-friendly terephthalic acid through engineered Escherichia coli.”
Distinguished Professor Lee Named International Fellow of the CAS
Distinguished Professor Sang Yup Lee from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at KAIST was awarded the title of distinguished professor and international fellow from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), and honorary professor from its affiliated organization the Tianjin Institute of Industrial Biotechnology (TIB). The CAS recognized Distinguished Professor Lee for his significant contributions to biotechnology. He has made significant pioneering academic achievements in the area of systems metabolic engineering, which produces useful chemicals from microorganisms. Not only did he develop the first and best source technology in that field, but also came out with processes for the production of biofuel and environmentally-friendly chemicals.” As a global leader in systems metabolic engineering, Distinguished Professor Lee has also been appointed as an honorary professor at Jiangnan University in Wuxi, China. Distinguished Professor Lee was listed in the ‘Top 20 Translational Researchers of 2014’ selected by the renowned international journal Nature Biotechnology. Moreover, he was the first Asian recipient of the James E. Bailey Award in 2016 and Marvin J. Johnson Award in 2012, which are given to scholars in the field of biotechnology. He is also one of 13 global scientists who are foreign members of the renowned academic societies the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences in the US. Furthermore, he received the ‘2017 Korea Best Scientist Award’ from the president of Korea in July. Finally, his founding field, systems metabolic engineering, was chosen as one of the ‘Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2016’ by the World Economic Forum. The Chinese Academy of Sciences, established in November 1949, is an academic organization that carries out research on basic sciences and natural sciences in China. It defined its science and technology system to include the fields of basic sciences, natural sciences, and high technology. While having a base in Beijing, its branch academies are located in 12 main cities along with 117 affiliates and 100 national key labs.
Sangeun Oh Recognized as a 2017 Google Fellow
Sangeun Oh, a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Computing was selected as a Google PhD Fellow in 2017. He is one of 47 awardees of the Google PhD Fellowship in the world. The Google PhD Fellowship awards students showing outstanding performance in the field of computer science and related research. Since being established in 2009, the program has provided various benefits, including scholarships worth $10,000 USD and one-to-one research discussion with mentors from Google. His research work on a mobile system that allows interactions among various kinds of smart devices was recognized in the field of mobile computing. He developed a mobile platform that allows smart devices to share diverse functions, including logins, payments, and sensors. This technology provides numerous user experiences that existing mobile platforms could not offer. Through cross-device functionality sharing, users can utilize multiple smart devices in a more convenient manner. The research was presented at The Annual International Conference on Mobile Systems, Applications, and Services (MobiSys) of the Association for Computing Machinery in July, 2017. Oh said, “I would like to express my gratitude to my advisor, the professors in the School of Computing, and my lab colleagues. I will devote myself to carrying out more research in order to contribute to society.” His advisor, Insik Shin, a professor in the School of Computing said, “Being recognized as a Google PhD Fellow is an honor to both the student as well as KAIST. I strongly anticipate and believe that Oh will make the next step by carrying out good quality research.”
Research Center for Smart Submerged Floating Tunnel Systems Opens
(Distinguished guests including President Shin (fourth from the right) and Director Lee (third from left) at the opening ceremony) The Research Center for a Smart Submerged Floating Tunnel Systems was recently established at KAIST with the purpose of taking the lead in developing fundamental and applicable technology for submerged floating tunnels as well as fostering creative and talented people. Haeng-Ki Lee, a professor in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at KAIST is heading the center. KAIST held its opening ceremony on September 7, 2017 in the Applied Engineering Building located on the main campus. Distinguished guests, including KAIST president Sung-Chul Shin, the President of the Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology Gi-Hoon Hong, the President of the Korean Society of Civil Engineering Young-Seok Park, and the Director in the Division of Engineering at the National Research Foundation of Korea Joong-Kon Park attended the ceremony. The National Research Foundation of Korea provides Engineering Research Center (ERC) projects which find and foster groups with outstanding research performance in a field of engineering. The projects support these groups so that they can strengthen their global competitiveness while enhancing national competence in basic research. The ‘Research Center for Smart Submerged Floating Tunnel Systems’ was selected as one of the ERC projects in 2017. For the next seven years, the research center will work to develop a submerged floating tunnel system resistant depths greater than 100 meters. To achieve its goal, the center has defined crucial research topics including: i) a structural analysis program and integrated design technology specific for submerged floating tunnel systems, ii) high-durability marine construction materials and submerged construction integrated systems, and iii) safety and maintenance integrated technology for smart submerged floating tunnel systems. The ‘Research Center for Smart Submerged Floating Tunnel Systems’ will devote itself to developing a variety of fundamental and applicable technology that will be leading global maritime construction. Moreover, it will concentrate on fostering professional research manpower in related areas. The Director of the Center Lee said, “The center will cooperate with KAIST researchers who are experts in various fields, including structures, materials, construction, and maritime research. Based on this collaboration, the center will contribute to achieving autonomous technologies by developing fundamental and applicable technology related with submerged floating tunnel systems. It will also take the role of a leading global research hub in the field of submerged floating tunnels as well as construction technologies.”
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