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Highlight Seminar Series: Berry to speak on biocatalytic conversion of carbon dioxide to liquid fuels

Date: April 5, 2012

Time: 4:30 PM -

Location: Friend 006

Dr. David Berry of Flagship Ventures will give a lecture entitled “Biocatalytic Conversion of Carbon Dioxide to Liquid Fuels” as part of the Andlinger Center’s Highlight Seminar Series.  The seminar will take place on Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 4:30 PM in Friend Center 006.  A reception will follow and all members of the community are invited to attend.


David Berry joined Flagship in 2005 while completing his M.D. from Harvard Medical School.  He was also awarded, in 2005, a Ph.D. through the MIT Biological Engineering Division, where he studied drug delivery and sugar biology with Professors Ram Sasisekharan and Robert Langer. Dr. Dr. Berry also did his undergraduate work at MIT, graduating in 2000 Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi, with a degree in brain and cognitive sciences.  He was named as a member of the MIT Corporation – its Board of Trustees – in 2006, and to the MIT Enterprise Forum Global Board in 2010.  Berry’s work has led to 14 peer-reviewed publications, over 40 patents and applications, as well as over 35 awards and honors including the prestigious Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for invention and innovation in 2005.  He was also named as the Innovator of the Year under the age of 35 by Technology Review in 2007.

At Flagship, Dr. Berry focuses on investing in and founding early-stage life science and sustainability ventures.  He is a founder of Flagship portfolio companies LS9, Joule Unlimited, Theracrine, Eleven Biotherapeutics, Essentient, among others.  He currently serves as founding CEO at Essentient, and previously served as founding CEO of Joule and Theracrine.  He was a Board member of Flagship portfolio company CGI Pharmaceuticals (acquired by Gilead in 2010), and currently serves as a director of Joule, Theracrine, Eleven, and Essentient.


Volatile fuel costs, need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and fuel security concerns are driving efforts to produce sustainable renewable fuels and chemicals.  A variety of emerging technologies are aiming to meet renewable fuel standards, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and provide viable alternatives to fossil fuels, but have been plagued with efficiency and thus cost issues.  Petroleum comes from sunlight, CO2, and water converted via a biological intermediate into fuel over a several million year timescale.  It stands to reason that short-circuiting this cycle could offer an attractive alternative.  Direct conversion of solar energy into liquid fuel using photosynthetic biocatalysts is a particularly attractive option that provides a path to the production of low-cost sustainable fuels.  Specifically, single cell photosynthetic cells have been engineered to take in sunlight, CO2, and non-fresh water, and directly secrete drop-in diesel.  These biocatalysts can allow for areal productivities of up to 15,000 gallons/acre/year of diesel, and cost points as low as $20/barrel.  This allows for theoretically unlimited reserves to be produced above ground on demand.  Furthermore, the development of such photosynthetic biocatalysts opens up the door for the production of a wide range of products with important market applications.