George Guo-Qiang Chen

George Guo-Qiang Chen received the 2023 International Metabolic Engineering Award

George Guo-Qiang Chen, Professor of Microbiology and Biomaterials at Tsinghua University (China), has been named the recipient of the 2023 International Metabolic Engineering Award. The award, presented every two years by the International Metabolic Engineering Society (IMES), a community within the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ (AIChE’s) Society for Biological Engineering, recognizes an outstanding career contributor to the field of metabolic engineering. George Chen is being honored for his contributions to the development of Next Generation Industrial Biotechnology based on extremophiles for unsterile and continuous production of biochemicals. Professor Sang Yup Lee, the chair of the award selection committee said “George Guo-Qiang Chen will be receiving the 2023 International Metabolic Engineering Award for his many significant contributions to metabolic engineering through the development of synthetic biology of Halomonas spp for the production of diverse PHA and other small molecular chemicals. Engineered extremophiles and next generation industrial biotechnology concept have been widely adopted and used for open production of chemicals.” The Metabolic Engineering Award and an associated lecture by George will be presented during the IMES-sponsored Metabolic Engineering 15 conference, June 11-15, 2023 in Singapore.

George Guo-Qiang Chen (b. 1963) is the Changjiang Professor in the School of Life Sciences and Department of Chemical Engineering at Tsinghua University. He received a BS degree in Applied Chemistry by the South China University of Technology in 1985, and a Ph.D. in BioTechnology from Graz University of Technology, Graz/Austria in 1989, followed with postdoc studies at the University of Nottingham/UK and The University of Alberta in Edmonton/Canada from 1990-1994. Since 1994 he has been in the faculty of the School of Life Sciences at Tsinghua University. He is the recipient of the outstanding Young Researcher of Natural Science Foundation of China (2002), 8th Young Chinese Scientific Achievement Award (2004), Tan Jiazhen Life Science Innovation Award (2011), MinEnZe Energy Chemical Industrial Award (2013) and Hou Debang Innovation Award (2015), Inaugural Xueming Zhao Lectureship Award (By AlChE and Intl Metabolic Engineering Society) (2019). He is a member of a number of journal Editorial Boards including Metabolic Engineering, Biotechnology Advances, Trends in Biotechnology and Synthetic and Systems Biotechnology et al. He founded the Center of Synthetic and Systems Biology at Tsinghua University in 2015. He is the Guest Chair Professor in Manchester Center of Biotechnology at the University of Manchester/UK.

George’s lab initially employed industrial biotechnology (CIB) based on conventional microbial chassis, such as E. coli, Ralstonia eutropha, Bacillus spp., Pseudomonas spp., and various yeast et al., some of their attempts attracted microbial contaminations, especially during the scale-up processes. Sterilization is a complicated operation procedure, most processes have heavy consumption of fresh water and energy, discontinuous processes, labor intensive and heavy investments et al. George’s Next-generation industrial biotechnology (NGIB) based on extremophiles has been developed to address the challenges of CIB, with the focus on Halomonas spp. able to grow fast under high salt and high pH conditions. Genetic engineering toolkits have been developed by George’s lab, opening the possibility to produce many products with significant reduced energy and fresh water consumptions, reduced process complexity and thus reduced cost. He has co-authored over 400+ refereed journal publications, has supervised 80+ PhD theses with many group alumni occupying leading positions in industry and academia. He lives on campus of Tsinghua University/Beijing with his wife and child.

The International Metabolic Engineering Society promotes the use of metabolic engineering — the optimization of the genetic and regulatory processes within cells — as an enabling science for bio-based production of advanced materials, pharmaceuticals, food ingredients, chemicals, and fuels. One of its venues for collaboration and information exchange is the biannual Metabolic Engineering Conference, where practitioners share knowledge and discuss current developments made in the field.

Previous recipients of the International Metabolic Engineering Award are: Costas Maranas (2020), Jack Pronk (2018), Bernhard Palsson (2016), Vassily Hatzimanikatis (2014), Jay Keasling (2012), Eleftherios Terry Papoutsakis (2010); Sang Yup Lee (2008), James Liao (2006), Jens Nielsen (2004), Gregory Stephanopoulos (2002), and James E. Bailey (2000).