Professor James C. Liao is the recipient of the NAS Award for Industrial Application of Science – presented this year in bioenergy.
Prof. Liao is being honored for his work in the development of industrially viable processes for the generation of biofuels, specifically the metabolic engineering of bacteria to produce high levels of iso-butanol from renewable carbon sources. His work represents the cutting edge in the industrial application of synthetic biology, and has important implications for alternative energy, climate change mitigation, and even human health. Established by the IBM Corp. in honor of Ralph E. Gomory, the award and $15,000 prize recognizes original scientific work of intrinsic scientific importance and with significant, beneficial applications in industry.
Source: National Academy of Sciences
Prof. James Liao (second from right) with his research group
Short Biography of Prof. James Liao
One of the worldwide most appreciated experts in metabolic engineering and synthetic biology, Professor Liao obtained his Bachelor of Science from the National Taiwan University. It was followed in 1987 by a Ph.D. degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and by a period spent as a research scientist at Rochester, working for the Eastman Kodak Company. In 1990 he joined Texas A&M University and in 1997, he moved to University of California, Los Angeles.
His current research interests are mainly focused on biological synthesis of fuels and chemicals, carbon and nitrogen assimilation, metabolic engineering and synthetic biology, transcriptional and metabolic networks analysis and fatty acid metabolism. Together with his research group, Professor Liao developed synthetic pathways for production of isobutanol and other higher alcohols from various raw materials. He deepened biological regulatory networks at the systems level, developing both experimental and computational methods for better understanding and predicting cellular behavior. They developed a breakthrough technique, called Network Component Analysis (NCA), using mRNA expression and transcriptional network connectivity to determine network component dynamics, functions, and interactions. The team designed novel synthetic gene-metabolic circuits, in order to demonstrate system-wide understanding of cellular regulation.
During his outstanding scientific career, he has been awarded with many recognition. Among them, the NSF Young Investigator Award in 1992, the Merck Award for Metabolic Engineering in 2006 and the Food, Pharmaceutical and Bioengineering Division award of American Institute of Chemical Engineers in the same year. He then won the Charles Thom Award of the Society for Industrial Microbiology in 2007 and the Marvin Johnson Award of American Chemical Society in 2009. In 2010, he received the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award. In 2012, Professor James Liao was proclaimed the White House Champion of Change in Renewable Energy and in 2013, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. He was also selected as a co-winner for the 2013 ENI Award in Renewable and Non-Conventional Energy.