UF Microbiologist Elected To Prestigious National Academy Of Sciences
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida microbiologist who won the 5 millionth U.S. patent for an ethanol production technology has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors accorded to a scientist or engineer.
Lonnie Ingram, a distinguished professor in research with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, becomes the 10th UF faculty member named to the academy. He is among 72 new members and 15 foreign associates from 10 countries elected Tuesday at the organization’s 138th annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
Ingram, who joined the faculty in UF’s microbiology and cell science department in 1972, joins an elite group of 1,874 active academy members that includes two other faculty in UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Robert Cousins, eminent scholar and professor in the food science and human nutrition department, and George K. Davis, professor emeritus in the animal sciences department, also are members.
“Recognition of our work by election to the National Academy is an unexpected honor,” Ingram said. “Our research goal is to produce fuel ethanol at a lower cost than fossil fuels by using inedible waste materials as feedstocks. Until now, all the world’s fuel ethanol has been produced from high value materials such as corn starch and molasses using yeast fermentations.”
Ingram’s scientific accomplishments include the development of a breakthrough biotechnology process that will help produce 20 million gallons of ethanol fuel annually at the world’s first commercial biomass-to-ethanol plant.
The $90 million facility being built in Jennings, La., by BC International Corp. will be operational in 2002. It will be the first to convert organic waste biomass into ethanol, a form of alcohol used as an industrial chemical and as a cheap, clean-burning auto fuel.
Currently, more than 2 billion gallons of ethanol are manufactured from corn starch each year and used as automotive fuel. Ingram’s technology will allow further expansion of ethanol production by using inedible feedstocks such as stalks, stems and leaves.
The plant’s technology and operating system are based upon genetically engineered bacteria developed by Ingram in cooperation with other department scientists. Ingram’s microorganism produces a high yield of ethanol from biomass such as sugarcane residues, rice hulls, forestry and wood wastes and other organic materials.
The technology, which in 1991 was granted landmark patent No. 5,000,000 by the U.S. Department of Commerce, is the world’s first genetically engineered E. coli bacteria capable of converting all sugar types found in plant cell walls into fuel ethanol.
Ingram’s research is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Energy. BC International Corp., based in Dedham, Mass., holds exclusive rights to use and license the UF-engineered bacteria, dubbed “K011” by Ingram.
Ingram received his bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of South Carolina in 1969 and his doctorate in botany from the University of Texas in 1971.
The National Academy of Sciences is a private organization of scientists and engineers dedicated to the furtherance of science and its use for the general welfare. The academy was established in 1863 by a congressional act of incorporation, signed by Abraham Lincoln, that calls on the academy to act as an official adviser to the federal government, upon request, in any matter of science or technology.