This distinguished lecture honors Britton Chance

Britton Chance (1913-2010) was a world leader in transforming theoretical science into useful biomedical and clinical applications. Among his pioneering contributions to fundamental biomedical science were his discovery of numerous enzyme-substrate compounds, World War II development of computers for Radar, the elucidation of the fundamental principles of control of bioenergetics and metabolism, the first human subject study using 31P NMR (phosphorous nuclear magnetic resonance) spectroscopy and more recently optical spectroscopy and imaging of human brain and breast. Through decades of scholarly mentorship of colleagues in disciplines ranging from mathematics to clinical medicine, he brought additional distinction to this University and multiplied its contributions to improving the human condition.

Professor Chance was Eldridge Reeves Johnson University Professor of Biophysics, Physical Chemistry and Radiologic Physics at Penn. He received his undergraduate degree from Penn’s Towne Scientific School in 1935 and doctoral degrees from both Penn and the University of Cambridge. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and of the Institute of Medicine and a Foreign Member of the Royal Society of London. Among very many other recognitions, he received the National Medal of Science, the Benjamin Franklin Medal from the American Philosophical Society, the Biological Physics Prize from the American Physical Society, and honorary degrees from the Karolinska Institut, the Medical College of Ohio at Toledo, Semmelweis University, Hahnemann Medical College and the Universities of Pennsylvania, Helsinki, Dusseldorf and Buenos Aires. In his honor, Huazhong University of Science and Technology named a major laboratory as the Britton Chance Center for Biomedical Photonics

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Britton Chance Distinguished Lecture in Engineering and Medicine

The 2014 Britton Chance Distinguished Lecture in Engineering and Medicine sponsored by the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

James C. Liao Dr. James C. Liao

Ralph M. Parsons Foundation Professor and Chair

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

University of California, Los Angeles

"Rewriting the Pathways to Life"

Wednesday, October 8, 2014, 3:00 PM, Wu and Chen Auditorium, Levine Hall

Production of chemicals and fuels using biological methods is a goal that has been pursued for
decades, if not centuries. Although success stories have been increasing recently, it is still difficult for the biological process to compete with traditional chemical processes. One of the major limitations of biological processes lies in the central pathways that support all life processes on earth. In particular, glycolysis, a fundamental metabolic pathway in life that exists in almost all organisms that is used to decompose sugars, proceeds in a way that loses one-third of the carbon to CO2 when producing most of the fuels and chemicals. As a result, almost all biofuel and biochemical production processes suffer a significant loss in yield. The pathway proceeds through partial oxidation and splitting of sugars to pyruvate, which in turn is decarboxylated to produce acetyl-coenzyme A (CoA) for various biosynthetic purposes. The decarboxylation of pyruvate loses a carbon equivalent, and limits the theoretical carbon yield to only two moles of two-carbon (C2) metabolites per mole of hexose. This native route is a major source of carbon loss in biorefining and microbial carbon metabolism. In this talk, I will discuss the design and construction of a non-oxidative, cyclic pathway that allows the production of stoichiometric amounts of C2 metabolites from hexose, pentose, and triose phosphates without carbon loss. This pathway, termed Non-Oxidative Glycolysis (NOG), enables complete carbon conservation in sugar catabolism to acetyl-CoA, and can be used in conjunction with CO2 fixation and other one-carbon (C1) assimilation pathways to achieve 100 percent carbon yield to desirable fuels and chemicals.

Speaker Biography:

James C. Liao is currently the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation Professor and Chair of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is a pioneer in metabolic engineering and synthetic biology. He received his B.S. degree from National Taiwan University and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 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 has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award (2010), and the White House “Champion of Change” distinction for innovations in renewable energy (2012). In 2013, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering and received the ENI Renewable Energy Prize, bestowed by the President of Italy. He received the National Academy of Sciences Award for the Industrial Application of Science in 2014.

Previous Britton Chance Distinguished Lecturers

1995 Lewis S. Edelheit, General Electric Company
1996   Douglas A. Lauffenburger, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

George Georgiou, University of Texas at Austin
1999 Jeffrey A. Hubbell, University of Zürich
2000 W. Mark Saltzman, Cornell University
2001 Chaitan S. Khosla, Stanford University
2002 Sangtae Kim, Lilly Research Laboratories
2003 Larry V. McIntire, Rice University
2004     Deborah E. Leckband, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
2004 Stephen R. Quake, Stanford University
2005 Frances H. Arnold, California Institute of Technology
2006 Adam P. Arkin, University of California at Berkeley
2007 Kristi S. Anseth, University of Colorado at Boulder
2008 Jay D. Keasling, University of California at Berkeley

Mark E. Davis, California Institute of Technology


David A. Tirrell, California Institute of Technology


Frank S. Bates, University of Minnesota


Arup K. Chakraborty, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Melody A. Swartz, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne