ChBE Seminar – Stepping on the Gas Towards a Circular Economy: Engineering Gas Fermenting Organisms for Carbon-Negative Biomanufacturing

The Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering will host Dr. James Clomburg, Advanced Manager in the Synthetic Biology group at LanzaTech, Inc. for a lecture titled “Stepping on the Gas Towards a Circular Economy: Engineering Gas Fermenting Organisms for Carbon-Negative Biomanufacturing” on Wednesday, October 26, from 3:15–4:30 p.m. in Room 108 of Perlstein Hall.


Dr. James Clomburg is an Advanced Manager in the Synthetic Biology group at LanzaTech, Inc. where he leads the New Systems team focused on developing novel gas-fermentation platforms to convert low-cost gaseous carbon feedstocks to fuels, chemicals, and materials. Prior to joining LanzaTech in 2021, Dr. Clomburg was a Faculty Research Scientist in the Department of Chemical, Biological, and Materials Engineering at the University of South Florida and also served as a Senior Research Scientist, Research Scientist, and Post-Doctoral Research Associate in the laboratory for Metabolic Engineering and Biomanufacturing at Rice University. He completed a B.S. in Chemical Engineering at the University of Texas and obtained his Ph.D. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Rice University. Dr. Clomburg’s research has focused on understanding and engineering of metabolic pathways for the utilization of abundant and sustainable feedstocks as well as the development and optimization of biological platforms to produce organic molecules with applications in fuel, chemical, and pharmaceutical production. He has led numerous research projects in these areas combining broad-based knowledge of metabolic pathways, biochemical reactions, and microbial metabolism to convert various carbon sources to novel compounds through the implementation of metabolic engineering and synthetic biology approaches. He has co-authored over 30 articles in leading scientific journals, including Nature, Nature Biotechnology, Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Metabolic Engineering, and ACS Synthetic Biology and is an inventor on over 20 patents and patent applications.


Owing to rising levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere and oceans, climate change poses significant environmental, economic, and social challenges globally. Technologies that enable carbon capture and conversion of greenhouse gases into useful products will help mitigate climate change by enabling a new circular carbon economy. Gas fermentation using carbon-fixing microorganisms offers an economically viable and scalable solution with unique feedstock and product flexibility. Using the abundance of carbon locked in low-cost waste streams ranging from industrial off gas (e.g., from processing plants or refineries) to syngas generated from biomass (e.g., gasified unsorted and non-recyclable municipal solid waste or agricultural waste), LanzaTech has developed commercial-scale gas fermentation technology utilizing biocatalysts to recycle these carbon-rich industrial waste streams into fuels and chemicals. In this talk, I will discuss our current commercial process for conversion of waste gases to ethanol and detail progress on genetic tool development and metabolic engineering to expand the product spectrum.