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Christopher Johnson

Senior Scientist, Synthetic Biology

Orcid ID

Christopher W. Johnson is a Research Scientist in the Bioprocess R&D group of NREL's National Bioenergy Center (NBC). His research is aimed at developing microbial biocatalysts for conversion of biomass-derived substrates to fuels, chemicals, and materials using a combination of rational and evolution-based approaches. These efforts are primarily focused on the valorization of waste streams from biochemical and thermochemical processes that are rich in lignin, a major component of terrestrial biomass that has been under-utilized due to its recalcitrance and heterogeneity. By employing a "biological funneling" strategy, engineered strains are able to convert depolymerized lignin to value-added products such as muconic acid, a precursor to many polymers, including thermoplastics such as nylon-6,6 and polyethylene terephthalate. In addition to his research, Christopher is also involved in industry outreach aimed at accelerating the transfer of technologies developed in the lab to the marketplace.


Ph.D., Molecular Biology, University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus

B.S., Microbiology, Indiana University, Bloomington

Professional Experience

Staff Scientist, NREL, NBC (2015–present)

Postdoctoral Researcher, NREL, NBC (2012–2015)

Molecular Biologist, Gevo (2011–2012)

Research Associate, Metabolix (now Yield10 Bioscience) (2000–2005)

Featured Work

Enhancing Muconic Acid Production from Glucose and Lignin-Derived Aromatic Compounds via Increased Protocatechuate Decarboxylase Activity, Metabolic Engineering Communications (2016)

Opportunities and Challenges in Biological Lignin ValorizationCurrent Opinion in Biotechnology (2016)

Cis, Cis-Muconic Acid: Separation and Catalysis to Bio-Adipic Acid for Nylon-6, 6 Polymerization, Green Chemistry (2016)

Aromatic Catabolic Pathway Selection for Optimal Production of Pyruvate and Lactate from LigninMetabolic Engineering (2015)

Adipic Acid Production from LigninEnergy & Environmental Science (2015)

Lignin Valorization through Integrated Biological Funneling and Chemical CatalysisProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2014)

View all NREL publications for Christopher W. Johnson.


Enzymes and Methods for Dealkylation of Substrates, U.S. Patent Application 15/065,717 (2016)

Biomass Conversion To Fuels And Chemicals, U.S. Patent Application 14/804,161 (2016)