Craig Venter Discusses Future of Energy, Biofuel in Rice University

Tom Tritton at the annual T.T. Chao Symposium

October 28, 2011 - Houston, TX

From Rice News & Media Relations

Thoughts about biofuel were shared by Craig Venter, a pioneering genome researcher, and Emil Jacobs '73, vice president of research and development for the ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Co., at this week's annual T.T. Chao Symposium on Innovation before a full house at Rice's BioScience Research Collaborative Oct. 26. Venter's Synthetic Genomics Inc. and ExxonMobil are partners in a long-term project to produce biofuel in bulk from genetically modified algae through photosynthesis.

Jacobs said the project meets ExxonMobil's five criteria for new research in terms of its ability to scale up, its impact on the environment, the ability of current technology to produce results, the economic value and the probability of success. He said biofuel from algae "worked its way to the top" of a list of potential sources of future energy.

Venter said that after sequencing the human genome, he and his colleagues "had to find something much bigger and more important, and nothing's more important than the future of energy. Energy equals food equals water. It doesn't matter where you start in this equation -- you end up in the same place. They're all critical."

"Algae shows the most promise, starting with photosynthesis," said Venter, who published a high-profile paper on the first creation of synthetic life last year that included then-Rice student Thomas Segall-Shapiro as an author. "When we were approached by ExxonMobil, it seemed like a chance to take things to the scale that we needed...

The discussion was part of a "History Live" series of talks sponsored by the Chemical Heritage Foundation during the International Year of Chemistry. Foundation President Tom Tritton was the moderator.

Link to RN&MR

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