Separating Hype from Reality in Alternative Fuels: Slated for May 19 at Institute for Systems Biology

4/18/11Follow @xconomy

If clean-burning renewables are ever going to replace fossil fuels at the corner fueling station, it will probably require a rethinking of the biofuel production process at the basic level of genes and cells. That’s why I’m jazzed to say we’re convening the next big Xconomy Seattle event at one of the hotspots where scientists are asking the tough questions about this technology.

Our next Xconomy event, “Separating Hype from Reality in Alternative Fuels,” will be held from 5:15 pm to 8:30 pm on May 19 at the Institute for Systems Biology’s new headquarters in South Lake Union.

Entrepreneurs on the front lines know that much of the action in alternative fuels is happening in places like the ISB, so it will be fun to see sparks fly when we bring businesspeople in to mix with the scientists. One of the keynote speakers at this event, Margaret McCormick of Matrix Genetics, knows her way around ISB quite well, given her company has a collaboration with scientists there who are looking at gene modifications to algae that could turn these fast-dividing microorganisms into more efficient biofuel factories. Kristina Burow, another featured speaker from Arch Venture Partners and a co-founder of Sapphire Energy, will also be able to speak to the grand challenges of science that are being addressed at universities and startup companies.

There are a couple more program notes to add since I announced this event April 8. John Gardner, the incoming dean of academic affairs at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute, will give a special 10-minute presentation on a new Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest project that has been supported by Boeing, Alaska Airlines, Sea-Tac International Airport, and other players with keen interest in the aviation fuel economy in the Northwest. And Michael Ramage, the CEO of Redmond, WA-based Asemblon, has also agreed to talk briefly about his company’s vision for making hydrogen a practical source of alternative fuel for big rigs.

I’m looking to add a couple more entrepreneurs with other ideas for how to generate alternative fuels, particularly those working on things other than algae. As always, I’m sharpening up my pencil to jot down the hard questions that need to be asked in this business, which has long gotten by on a lot of hype and government subsidies (think corn-based ethanol in the Midwest). And, as usual, I plan to run the microphone around the room to give you a chance to pose your questions. It will be a really interesting conversation focused on one of the big issues of the day, and a great chance to network with top people in the field of alternative fuels. So mark your calendars for May 19. See you there at the Institute for Systems Biology.

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