Compound potential


MIT Department of Chemical Engineering Associate Professor Kristala Jones Prather Photo: David Sella

Kristala Jones Prather engineers microbes to produce compounds that can be used in industrial processes efficiently and economically.

There’s an advantage to working with natural materials: They already exist. Their locations are often known and their behaviors are somewhat predictable. But those are also disadvantages, as resources can become scarce and applications static.

Kristala Jones Prather, an associate professor of chemical engineering at MIT, looks to change that in her lab by engineering microbes to make new compounds. While challenges lie in increasing scale and maximizing yield, all in the need to be competitive, there’s also potential. With her private sector experience, Prather understands the requirements of research and the realities of commerce. Getting them to co-exist could help lead to chemicals that lower drug costs and replace petroleum through alternatives that are easy to adopt, and, most importantly according to Prather, profitable.

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