Going from Bacteria to Gasoline

US: Does a microbe hold the key to replacing petroleum? Genetic engineering shakes up biofuels

Thomas Broening for TIME

Robert Walsh at the LS9 lab.

Robert Walsh knows oil, which is why he finds himself running a company that aims to make it obsolete. The petroleum-industry veteran spent 26 years with Shell, eventually running the oil giant's European supply operations, so he's intimately aware of the global infrastructure needed to efficiently produce, refine and distribute fuel around the world. That experience made Walsh, 49, the perfect candidate to take over as CEO at the biofuel company LS9 earlier this year. Founded in 2005 by a Harvard geneticist and a Stanford plant biologist, LS9 — so named because it is the ninth life-science company launched by the...

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