Jay D. Keasling

Professor of Chemical Engineering
Dept of Bioengineering
Dept of Chemical Engineering
(510) 642-4862
(510) 495-2629
Research Expertise and Interest
chemical engineering, biochemical engineering, metabolic engineering of microorganisms, degradation of environmental contaminants, environmentally friendly synthesis, biodegradable polymers, mineralization of organophosphate nerve agents, pesticides, biofuels
Research Description

The research in the Keasling Laboratory focuses on the metabolic engineering of microorganisms for degradation of environmental contaminants or for environmentally friendly synthesis. To that end, we have developed a number of new genetic and mathematical tools to allow more precise and reproducible control of metabolism. These tools are being used in such applications as synthesis of biodegradable polymers, accumulation of phosphate and heavy metals, and degradation of chlorinated and aromatic hydrocarbons, biodesulfurization of fossil fuels, complete mineralization of organophosphate nerve agents and pesticides, synthesis of pharmaceuticals, and biofuels production.

In the News

June 19, 2019

Scientists chart course toward a new world of synthetic biology

Genetically engineered trees that provide fire-resistant lumber for homes. Modified organs that won’t be rejected. Synthetic microbes that monitor your gut to detect invading disease organisms and kill them before you get sick. These are just some of the exciting advances likely to emerge from the 20-year-old field of engineering biology, or synthetic biology, which is now mature enough to provide solutions to a range of societal problems, according to a new roadmap released today (June 19) by the Engineering Biology Research Consortium, a public-private partnership partially funded by the National Science Foundation and centered at the University of California, Berkeley.
February 27, 2019

Yeast produce low-cost, high-quality cannabinoids

UC Berkeley synthetic biologists have engineered brewer’s yeast to produce marijuana’s main ingredients—mind-altering THC and non-psychoactive CBD—as well as novel cannabinoids not found in the plant itself.
April 25, 2013

Malaria milestone ‘took a village’

On April 25, World Malaria Day, the nonprofit Zagaya released a video Illustrating why, in the words of UC Berkeley synthetic biologist Jay Keasling, “it took a village” to create an accessible treatment for malaria that will be essential to eradicating the disease.

April 2, 2013

Campus poised to join Obama’s BRAIN initiative

Three UC Berkeley scientists were among a gathering of the nation’s top scientists at the White House this morning (Tuesday, April 2) as President Barack Obama announced a major national initiative to develop new tools to create real-time traffic maps of the human brain.

December 22, 2011


Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) researchers have developed computer assisted design (CAD)-type tools for engineering RNA components to control genetic expression in microbes. This holds enormous potential for microbial-based production of advanced biofuels, biodegradable plastics, therapeutic drugs and a host of other goods now derived from petrochemicals.

November 29, 2011

Bacteria turn switchgrass into advanced biofuels

Jay Keasling and his colleagues at the Joint BioEnergy Institute have engineered bacteria to turn switchgrass – a hard to digest plant – into gasoline, diesel and jet fuels. This could vastly reduce the cost of producing plant-based fuels to replace fuels from oil and coal.