Editor's Note: The Next List will air a full 30min profile of synthetic biologist Jay Keasling this Sunday, Feb. 10th, at 2:30PM ET (all-new time!) only on CNN.
Quotable Jay Keasling: “The carpets, the paint on the walls, the ceiling tiles, we have the potential to produce all of these products from sugar.”
Who is he: Jay Keasling, a pioneer in the burgeoning field of synthetic biology, is engineering microbes – single cell organisms like yeast and E. coli – to produce biofuels, medicines, even cosmetic compounds from simple ingredients like sugar cane and grass.
In addition to teaching bioengineering at UC Berkeley, Jay is CEO of the U.S. Dept of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) in Emeryville, California.
Why you might know him: Keasling’s biggest breakthrough came in 2003 when he and his students reprogrammed yeast to produce a synthetic version of an expensive anti-malarial drug known as artemisinin. Armed with a $42 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, they’ve since perfected this inexpensive and effective replacement drug, providing a royalty-free license for mass production to pharmaceutical giant Sanofi-Aventi. Sanofi will bring it to market in 2013, producing 100 million treatments annually. Malaria kills roughly 1 million people a year, many of them children.
Why he matters: Today Keasling is focusing his efforts on creating a new generation of biofuels. Overseeing a team of 200 researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute, his goal is to “engineer microbes to produce fuels that behave exactly the same as petroleum-based fuels.” Ultimately, he believes all petroleum-based products – everything from hard plastics and paints to soda bottles – can be produced from these sugar-fed microbes.
Keasling’s philosophy: “Energy is our biggest industry on the planet. But unless we stop putting carbon into the atmosphere, sea levels are going to continue to rise and it's going to create huge problems."
Something you might not know about him: Keasling's a small town boy made good. He grew up on a fifth generation pig farm in Harvard, Nebraska (pop. 1000) where hard work and family were his focus. He jokes he spent the first 18 years of his life shoveling manure. Today, he may spend his day in a lab coat, but as a single father of two adopted boys, ages nine and 15, family continues to keep him grounded.
Why biofuels matter: Keasling doesn’t think we’ll ever see a day when biofuels cost less than petroleum-based fuels, but they will be cleaner. “We won’t be extracting oil from a foreign country, then hauling it to the U.S., and putting that excess carbon into the atmosphere,” he said. Instead, by producing high performance fuels from sugars, he says we can limit the carbons released into the atmosphere and, as a result, help slow global warming.
Written By Heather M. Higgins, CNN
Video Edited By Nina Raja, CNN
New York - On October 8, the world’s largest celebration of Italian-American heritage will travel up New York's Fifth Avenue in honor of the exploration and the courage that inspired Christopher Columbus’s discovery 520 years ago.
However, just three blocks to the west, residents and tourists have a rare opportunity to discover Columbus for the first time - at a whimsical art installation that has already caused intrigue and irritation within the community.
“When will you ever get the chance to have this face-to-face experience with the monument, the statue of Columbus,” said Nicholas Baume, director and chief curator of the Public Art Fund, a non-profit with a mission to bring dynamic, contemporary art projects to New York City.
“I think it’s a way of creating an intimacy and turning the public into the domestic in a very unique way," Baume continued. “And I think it’s a work about imagination, turning a fiction into a temporary reality.”
Japanese intervention artist Tatzu Nishi’s first major U.S. work, “Discovering Columbus,” places a 13-foot-high icon in the center of a modern American living room six stories above one of the city’s most bustling intersections.
This fresh vantage point offers dramatic views of Central Park and Midtown Manhattan from four loft-style windows. But more importantly, many see this exhibit as a teachable moment about Columbus, the statue, and the circle itself.
Editor's note: Brian O'Hanlon is a pioneer in aquaculture. He is raising fish in the swift waters of the open ocean, eight miles off the coast in Panama. CNN's "The Next List" will feature the founder of Open Blue on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.
By Brian O'Hanlon, CNN
I once read an article in The Guardian that said this: Over the next 50 years humans will need to produce more food than all the food ever produced over the past 10,000 years combined. There is no disputing that our global food supply is stretched to the limit. We already use most of the farmland on the planet and have exhausted most of the world’s fisheries. Our ability to produce food, one of our great successes as a species, is rapidly depleting. If we do not innovate and seriously transform our methods for feeding the world’s population, we will soon find ourselves at a point where we can no longer feed our growing population.
A number of factors make aquaculture one of the most efficient forms of food production available, particularly open ocean fish farming. First, it’s important to understand that fish are cold-blooded, meaning they do not use lots of energy to warm their bodies, like chicken, pigs or cattle do. Fish use the water around them to support their bones while land-dwelling animals require large amounts of energy to support their bodies against gravity. Additionally, the water environment enables fish to occupy more space and grow in far larger quantities per square foot than any animal raised in a field. Simply put, fish waste less of our precious land. Let’s also not forget that land-raised protein, whether animal or crop, requires massive amounts of fresh water to grow. Aquaculture requires almost no fresh water for the fish to thrive. FULL POST
Ubaldo Vitali doesn't neatly fit into our current crop of 'Next Listers' who are on the cutting edge of technology. He doesn't program robots or create interactive art. In fact the machinery and techniques he employs are centuries old.
Vitali is a master artisan – an alchemist. In layman terms, a silversmith. And his artistic output is split into two categories: uniquely contemporary creations and conservational restoration.
Vitali was born in Rome, Italy in 1944. He's part of a family of goldsmiths, reaching back four generations. While studying sculpture at an Italian college, he fell in love with an American girl and followed her back to New Jersey. Since then he hasn't left New Jersey and set up his workshop in the small town of Maplewood. Though an ocean away from his family, he's managed to create unparalleled works that have been recognized by American conservationists.
"He represents a moment in American craft history that's past, and yet he represents a standard that I hope just yet won't evaporate," said Ulysses Dietz, the Newark Museum Curator of Decorative Arts.
The pieces Vitali creates are breathtakingly beautiful, each containing a consciousness of the old world wrapped within contemporary modernist designs.
In 2011, Vitali received a phone call from the MacArthur Genius Grant committee with news that he was being honored with their top award. A prestigious honor in which the recipient receives $500,000 with no strings attached to continue their work.
"The committee who chooses the MacArthur Grant [recipients] look for people who are doing innovative research or looking at things in a new way, and pushing the field forward," said Janet Zapata, a former Tiffany & Co. archivist. "To me Ubaldo is one of the foremost silversmiths in this country, if not in the world."
The Next List is proud to present our profile of this kind soul and wonderful craftsman – Ubaldo Vitali.