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Philip T. Pienkos

Photo of Philip Pienkos with Dan Arvizu. Pienkos holds a certificate for Outstanding Mentor 2013.

I am the Principal Manager of the Analytical Chemistry and Life Sciences Group of the National Bioenergy Center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. I joined NREL in September 2007 after 25 years in the biotech industry. Although my primary focus at NREL is on algal biofuels, I am also active in efforts to produce hydrocarbon fuels from sugars, lignin, and natural gas. In addition to my research responsibilities, I lead a group that consists of three sections — Applied Biology, Process Biology, and Compositional Analysis — and serve as line manager for seventeen interns, technicians, scientists, and engineers who are involved in various aspects of biofuel R&D.

Research Interests

Some of the DOE-funded programmatic efforts carried out by the Applied Biology Section are:

  • Biological toxicity characterization and mitigation
  • Biological transformations
  • Advanced biomass deconstruction
  • Feedstock process interface
  • Zymohydrocarbon fuels
  • Techno-economic modeling
  • Biomass characterization
  • Productivity modeling
Photo of Philip Pienkos with 11 members of the Applied Sciences Group.

In addition to these activities, I am the subtask lead or NREL PI on a number of advanced biofuels projects that are funded by DOE. These include:

I am very active in the international algal biofuels community, resulting in my being named in Biofuels Digest's list of the top 100 people in biofuels three years running. I played a role in writing an algal biofuels report to Congress (released in 2008) and in organizing the DOE algal roadmapping workshop in December 2008 as well as helping to draft the roadmap itself, which was published in 2010. I was a co-author on the International Energy Agency Task 39 report on Current Status and Potential for Algal Biofuels Production and on the report to DOE on the harmonization of algal biofuels analysis. I was selected to serve on the steering committee of the fledgling Algae Biomass Organization in 2007 and have served on the board of directors from 2008 to present. I support the ABO by chairing the Events Committee (including chairing the Algae Biomass Summit Program Committee in 2010 and 2012) as well as serving on the Technical Standards Committee. I have recently been chosen to serve on the board of directors of the Algae Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization established to support research, development, and other educational activities relating to the use of algae for the production of renewable and sustainable commercial products.

Much of my time is spent in partnership development at NREL, and I am involved in discussions with both public and private organizations to identify collaborative opportunities in various aspects of biofuel R&D involving both cellulosic and algal biomass.

My technical experience spans a wide range of topics including:

  • Molecular biology
  • Microbial physiology
  • Fermentation development
  • Metabolic engineering
  • Enzyme and protein engineering
  • Techno-economic analysis.


Ph.D., Molecular Biology, University of Wisconsin, 1980
B.S., Honors Biology, University of Illinois, Graduated cum laude, 1974

Professional Experience

  • Principal Group Manager, NREL, Golden, CO, 5/11–present
  • Principal Research Supervisor, NREL, Golden, CO, 8/07–5/11
  • Research Director, Molecular Logix, Inc., The Woodlands, TX, 2/03–8/07
  • Interim Research Position, Advisys, Inc., The Woodlands, TX, 8/02–2/03
  • Research Director, Enchira Biotechnology Corp./Energy BioSystems Corp., The Woodlands, TX, 10/94–5/02
  • Staff Scientist, Celgene Corp., Warren, NJ, 5/86–10/94
  • Senior Research Scientist, Celanese Research Company, Summit, NJ, 6/84–5/86
  • Senior Research Scientist, Lederle Laboratories, Pearl River, NY, 6/82–6/84
  • Post-Doctoral Fellow, Dept. of Microbiology, University of Texas, Austin, TX, 10/79–6/82

Publications and Presentations

Co-author of numerous technical publications, including most recently:

Co-inventor on three patents:

  • Coco, W.M.; Pienkos, P.T.; Loomis, A.K. "Epidermal Growth Factor Agonists and Methods of Use." U.S. Patent No. 7,084,246.
  • Bishop, J.S.; Loomis, K.A.; Monticello, D.J.; Pienkos, P.T. "Epidermal growth factor receptor antagonists and methods of use." U.S. Patent No. 7,470,769.
  • Pienkos, P.T.; Monticello, D.J. "Pan-HER antagonists and methods of use." U.S. Patent No. 7,557,181.

Recent interviews:

Presentations at national and international meetings, including most recently:

  • Fifth Annual Algae Biomass Summit (2011)
  • 33rd Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals (2011)
  • World Biofuels Market Congress (2010)
  • Algae Biofuels World Summit (2009)
  • DOE Algal Biofuels Roadmapping Workshop (2008)
  • Second Annual Algae Biomass Summit (2008)
  • Renewable Energy Finance Summit (2008)
  • Algae Biomass Summit (2007)
  • Miami Nature Biotechnology Winter Symposium (2005)

Contact Information

Philip T. Pienkos
Principal Manager
Analytical Chemistry and Life Sciences Group
National Bioenergy Center
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
15013 Denver West Parkway
Golden, CO 80401
Phone: 303-384-6269
Fax: 303-384-6363