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Award for Excellence in Research

Award for Excellence in Research

Yajun Yan

The Award for Excellence in Research honors outstanding faculty in the UGA College of Engineering who have shown exceptional creativity and achievement in any area of engineering research. This year's recipient is Yajun Yan, a professor in the School of Chemical, Materials and Biomedical Engineering.

The overall goals of Yajun Yan's research are to exploit the science of cellular metabolism and regulation and to develop engineering tools, strategies and technologies to solve real-world problems in energy, environment and health. His lab focuses on developing novel enzymatic and microbial approaches for the green and sustainable production of fuels, bulk chemicals, commodity chemicals and pharmaceutically important natural products. The novelty and significance of Yan's research has attracted multiple research grants from a variety of sources, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Georgia Research Alliance, as well as foundation and industrial partners.

Since 2018, Yan's research has resulted in 23 papers in scientific journals with high impact, including Nature Communications, Trends in Biotechnology, Biotechnology Advances, Current Opinion of Biotechnology, Metabolic Engineering, ACS Synthetic Biology, and Biotechnology & Bioengineering. Over the same period, his research has resulted in three awarded patents and an additional patent application.

Yan's development of  technology related to microbial production of 5-hydroxytryptophan led to the creation of a startup biotech company, Biotecera, in the UGA Innovation Gateway incubator. His company aims to bring high-quality and low-cost 5-hydroxytryptophan products to the global market to address depression, insomnia, and anxiety in humans as well as milk fever in dairy cows. The progress of Biotecera and Yan's research led to his selection as the recipient of the 2018 UGA Academic Entrepreneur of the Year Research Award.