2018 Kelly Lectures: Dr. James C. Liao

Event Date: April 25, 2018
Speaker: Professor James C. Liao
Speaker Affiliation: President, Academia Sinica, Taiwan
Time: 3:00 - 4:15 pm
Location: FRNY 3059
Priority: No
School or Program: Chemical Engineering
College Calendar: Show
President, Academia Sinica, Taiwan "Construction and Evolution of Escherichia coli for utilization of C1 compounds"

James C. Liao

President, Academia Sinica, Taiwan

Construction and Evolution of Escherichia coli for utilization of C1 compounds

Microbial utilization of renewable C1 compounds, such as methanol, formic acid and CO2, has emerged as a potential approach to increase the range of carbon sources for bioproduction and address the climate change problem. To this end, we have designed, constructed, and evolved various synthetic metabolic pathways to allow E. coli to utilize these compounds. We demonstrated the functions of these pathways by growth complementation and isotope labeling. The engineered E. coli strain was able to assimilate xylose, an abundant but less exploited sugar, with methanol (or formate) at approximately 1:1 molar ratio. We also demonstrated conversion of methanol to ethanol by utilizing the modified serine cycle in the engineered E. coli strain, achieving a reaction yet to be accomplished by a one-pot chemical process. 


Professor Liao received his B.S. (1980) degree from National Taiwan University and Ph.D. (1987) from University of Wisconsin-Madison. After working as a research scientist at Eastman Kodak Company, Rochester, NY, he started his academic career at Texas A&M University in 1990 and moved to University of California, Los Angeles from 1997 to 2016. He has served as President of Academia Sinica in Taiwan since June 2016.

Professor Liao is a Member of the US National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Academician of Academia Sinica in Taiwan. He also received numerous awards and recognitions, including the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award (2010), the White House “Champion of Change” for innovations in renewable energy (2012), the ENI Renewable Energy Prize bestowed by the President of Italy in 2013, and the 2014 National Academy of Sciences Award for the Industrial Application of Science.

His research has focused on metabolism, including its biochemistry, regulation and redesign. He uses metabolic engineering, synthetic biology, and systems biology to construct microorganisms to produce next generation biofuels and to study the obesity problem in human. Dr. Liao and his team also develop mathematical tools for investigating metabolism and guiding engineering design. Currently, their main projects include engineering proteins and biochemical pathways for CO2 fixation and production of fuels and chemicals. The ultimate goal is to use biochemical methods to replace petroleum processing and to treat metabolic diseases.