Adam M Guss

Adam M Guss

Genetic and Metabolic Engineer

Dr. Adam Guss is a Genetic and Metabolic Engineer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Joint Faculty Assistant Professor in the Bredesen Center at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Dr. Guss received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign in the Department of Microbiology studying the electron transport pathways used by members of the Archaea to produce methane. He was a Microbial Sciences Initiative Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University studying the phylogenetic and metabolic diversity of non-cultured and rarely cultured bacteria present in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients. He then worked in Lee Lynd’s research group at Dartmouth College as a Postdoctoral Researcher and Research Scientist as a member of the BioEnergy Science Center (BESC). His work involved improving genetic tools and metabolic engineering of Clostridium thermocellum for production of biofuels from cellulosic biomass.

Dr. Guss’ current research utilizes genetics and synthetic biology to develop genetic tools for non-model microbes and engineer them to convert lignocellulosic biomass, plastics, and other waste into liquid fuels and other value-added products. Genetic tool development spans from developing transformation methods and improving transformation efficiency in diverse microbes, to rapidly characterizing genetic "parts" (e.g., selectable markers, origins of replication, recombinases, promoters, terminators, etc), to high throughput genome engineering. The Guss lab collaborates with labs around the world to enhance genetic tools in diverse organisms and accelerate their research.

Using these tools, the Guss lab engineers diverse organisms , including Clostridium thermocellum, Pseudomonas putida, Cupriavidus necator, Corynebacterium glutamicum, Megasphaera elsdenii, Bacillus licheniformis, Parageobacillus thermoglucosidasius, Zymomonas mobilis, and many others. The overall goal is to engineer these organisms to convert cheap feedstocks (e.g., plant biomass, modern plastics, CO2 and electricity) into fuels and chemicals (e.g., ethanol, butanol, butyric acid, hexanoic acid, itaconic acid, muconic acid, butanediol). These tools are also being applied to engineer microbiomes for various applications.

Dr. Guss is a researcher in the Center for Bioenergy Innovation and the PNNL-led Persistence Control consortia. He is also the co-Lead for the Host Onboarding and Development Team in the Agile BioFoundry (ABF), the ORNL Principle Investigator for the BOTTLE Consortium for production of building blocks for performance-advantaged plastics, and a member of the CO2 Reduction and Upgrading for e-Fuels (CO2RUe) Consortium.


  1. Guss AM and Riley LA. Genetically-modified bacteria for conversion of organic compounds to butanol and methods of use. U.S. Patent No. 11466296B2. (2022)
  2. Johnson CW, St. John PC, Beckham GT, Elmore JR, Guss AM, Salvachua D, Bentley GJ, Peabody GL, Dale T, Jha RK, and Narayanan N. Engineered microorganisms for the production of intermediates and final products. U.S. Patent No. US11518975B2. (2022)
  3. Guss AM, Elmore JR, Huenemann J. Engineered microbes for conversion of organic compounds to medium chain length alcohols and methods of use. U.S. Patent No. US11326151B2. (2022)
  4. Elmore JR, Huenemann J, Salvacha D, Beckham GT, and Guss AM.  Production of itaconic acid and related molecules from aromatic compounds. U.S. Patent No. US10738333B2 (2020)
  5. Lo J, Guss AM, Van Dijken JP, Shaw IV JA, Olson DG, Herring CD. Engineering an Increase in Ethanol Production by Altering Cofactor Specificity. US Patent US010767196B2 (2020)
  6. Rydzak T and Guss AM. Gene modification in Clostridium for increased alcohol production. U.S. Patent No. US10179907B2 (2018)
  7. Brown S, Guss AM, Yang S, Karpinets T, Lynd LR. Nucleic acid molecules conferring enhanced ethanol tolerance and microorganisms having enhanced tolerance to ethanol United States Patent US20110287499. (2014)