Dr. James C. Liao, President of Academia Sinica, Taiwan. He is an elected Member of the US National Academy of Engineering, US National Academy of Sciences, and Academician of Academia Sinica in Taiwan. 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 UCLA in 1997. He is a pioneer in Metabolic Engineering and Synthetic Biology. His research has focused on metabolism, including its biochemistry, regulation and redesign. Currently, his projects include design and engineering biochemical pathways for CO2 fixation and production of fuels and chemicals. Dr. Liao received numerous awards and recognitions, including the US EPA Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award, the White House “Champion of Change” for innovations in renewable energy, the ENI Renewable Energy Prize bestowed by the President of Italy, the US National Academy of Sciences Award for the Industrial Application of Science, Novozyme Award for Excellence in Biochemical and Chemical Engineering, and the Israeli Samson-Prime Minister's Prize for Innovation in Alternative Energy and Smart Mobility for Transportation.
Bioeconomy is the use of renewable resources through biological means to produce chemicals, materials, and other products. This idea has a long history and has come a long way though several waves of technological advances. Between 1960 and 1980, which was the pre-recombinant DNA era, bioeconomy (1.0) focused on natural products from natural producers. Between 1980 and 2000, bioeconomy (2.0) benefited from recombinant DNA technology and enhanced biosynthetic capability in non-native producers, while still limited to native pathways. After 2000, bioeconomy (3.0) moved to the era of metabolic engineering and synthetic biology, where genome editing technology become available. In this era, technological barrier is no longer is limiting, market viability, on the other hand, became the dominating factor. While product range has greatly expanded beyond the scope of native pathways, commercial developments are focused on high value products, such as cosmetics and fragrance, personal care products, and nutrition and flavor. While these products have a greater chance of commercial success, they offer limited contribution to climate solutions. To benefit the 2050 net zero goal, bioeconomy must develop ways to utilize C1 compounds such as CO2, methane, and methanol, and work with chemistry and electrochemistry to develop a comprehensive scheme for converting C1 resources to a wide variety of feedstock chemicals and materials. To this end, previous efforts in syn gas fermentation and microalgae processes must be revisited and augmented by modern technologies to create synthetic C1 utilizers based on industrial model organisms. Additionally, the future bioeconomy must improve the biological rate limitation and produce compounds in petrochemical scales and rates, in order to benefit the net zero goal.