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October 22, 2007

Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute Gets New Home: EmeryStation East to Host Biofuels Research Center

BERKELEY, CA — The Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), a $135 million U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Research Center, has announced an agreement with Wareham Development to lease space at EmeryStation East, a new state-of-the-art laboratory building in Emeryville. JBEI is a six-institution partnership led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) whose mission is to speed the development of renewable biofuels – liquid fuels derived from the solar energy stored in plant biomass.

JBEI’s other partners are Sandia National Laboratories, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the University of California campuses of Berkeley and Davis, and the Carnegie Institution for Science.

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EmeryStation East is a 245,000-square-foot component of Wareham Development’s 11-acre EmeryStation campus. It will be the home of the DOE’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI).

"High-quality laboratory space is essential for first-class research, and the lease of EmeryStation East will enable JBEI researchers to make renewable biofuels a reality and  help establish the Bay Area as the hub of renewable biofuels development," said Jay Keasling, Director of Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division and a UC Berkeley Professor of Chemical Engineering, who serves as JBEI’s Chief Executive Officer.

“For the JBEI partnership, EmeryStation East was the best fit programmatically and locationwise,” Keasling added.

Raymond Orbach, DOE’s Under Secretary for Science, whose Office of Science Biological and Environmental Research Genomics:GTL program is funding JBEI and two other Bioenergy Research Centers, sent a congratulatory message to Keasling and the Berkeley Lab leadership.

“We have very high hopes for JBEI in our quest for major scientific breakthroughs needed to make biofuels a commercially viable alternative to imported oil and other fossil fuels,” Orbach said. “It is our hope that this modern laboratory space in EmeryStation East, located in the heart of Biotech Country in San Francisco’s East Bay, will be a crucible for transformational discovery.”

Wareham Development is a San Rafael-based firm that since its inception in 1977 has established itself as one of the premier developers of laboratory space for bio, nano and physical sciences research and development. EmeryStation East is a 245,000-square-foot component of Wareham’s 11-acre EmeryStation campus. Designed by SmithGroup, an American Institute of Architect award-winning lab specialist, it rises four stories over two parking levels and is organized around a 20,000-square-foot lushly landscaped central plaza with gardens and sculpture, and a dynamic lobby boasting a Nobel Wall of Fame to pay homage to the Bay Area’s unique contributions to science.

“Wareham Development is delighted to welcome JBEI to EmeryStation East,” said Rich Robbins, president of Wareham Development. “We built this extraordinary building for Bay Area scientists and as a prototype for the kind of facility needed in the East Bay biotech corridor. As our hope was to attract Nobel or noble research to this facility, we could not feel more privileged to have the opportunity to house this extraordinary and urgent research that JBEI is entrusted to and engaged in on behalf of aiding the world’s citizens at this crucial time in our planet’s history.”

Separate teams from Cornish & Carey Commercial/ONCOR International, a Santa Clara-based real estate firm serving all of  Northern California, represented both parties in the lease transaction.

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Jay Keasling

Research has shown that harnessing even a tiny fraction of the total solar energy available each year could meet most if not all of the nation’s annual transportation energy needs without contributing carbon emissions that contribute to global warming. Although scientific studies have consistently ranked biofuels among the top candidates for accomplishing this goal, the commercial-scale production of clean, efficient, carbon-neutral and cost-effective biofuels will require technology-transforming scientific breakthroughs.

JBEI researchers intend to meet this challenge through the conversion of lignocellulosic biomass into biofuels. Lignocellulose, the most abundant organic material on the planet, is a mix of complex sugars and lignin that gives strength and structure to plant cell walls. By extracting simple fermentable sugars from lignocellulose and producing biofuels from them, the potential of the most energy-efficient and environmentally benign fuel crops can be realized.

The lease with Wareham Development is for a five-year term with options to renew for two additional five-year terms. JBEI will occupy the fourth (top) floor of EmeryStation East, a space of approximately 65,000 square feet. The interior build-out of the JBEI space is being designed by the San Francisco architectural firm DGA, with mechanical, electrical and plumbing being handled by the engineering firm Flack and Kurtz, also of San Francisco.

A team of commercial brokerage agents including Bill Nork, Jonathan Tomasco and Randy Scott of Cornish & Carey Commercial represents Wareham’s EmeryStation East building for lease. Cornish & Carey’s Breck Lutz represented JBEI in locating and securing the newly leased property. 

Said Douglas Lockhart, a senior operations manager with Berkeley Lab’s Facilities Division, who is serving as project director for tenant improvement, “We’ve developed a phasing plan so that JBEI can take partial occupancy of the EmeryStation East space in March 2008, and full occupancy next May.”

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