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GM Yeast for Commercial Ethanol Production

Iogen Corporation (earlier post) has has obtained the first (and non-exclusive license) from the Purdue Research Foundation for a genetically modified yeast that can produce ethanol from agricultural waste.

Purdue’s genetically altered yeast allows about 40 percent more ethanol to be made from sugars derived from agricultural residues, such as corn stalks and wheat straw, compared with “wild-type” yeasts that occur in nature.

The agricultural residues are primarily made up of cellulose and “hemicellulose,” which are known as cellulosic materials. Unlike traditional ethanol feedstocks, such as corn kernels, the cellulosic materials contain two major sugars, glucose and xylose, which cannot both be fermented into ethanol by natural Saccharomyces yeast, the microorganism used by industry to produce ethanol, said Nancy Ho, a senior research scientist and leader of the molecular genetics group in Purdue's Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering, or LORRE.

The Purdue researchers altered the genetic structure of the yeast so that it now contains three additional genes that make it possible to simultaneously convert glucose and xylose to ethanol. The ability to ferment xylose increases the yield of ethanol from straw by about 40 percent. Being able to simultaneously ferment glucose and xylose is important because both sugars are found together in agricultural residues, Ho said.

The original paper describing the yeast:“Genetically Engineered Saccharomyces Yeast Capable of Effective Cofermentation of Glucose and Xylose”, Applied Environmental Microbiology, May 1998, p. 1852-1859, Vol. 64, No. 5.


John Adam

According to Iogen's spokesperson, Iogen's business plan focuses only on agriculture residues for the foreseeable future, however I found information on Iogen's site suggesting that Iogen is interested in building a production facility in the USA.The US has a USDA program,Conservation Reserve Program, and currently has a joint program with the DOE promoting biomass fuels. The USDA is also encouraging farmers to use the grass it pays them under the CRP to grow, it could be switch grass, and sell it for biomass energy production. Please check it out, http://www.fsa.usda.gov/pas/publications/facts/html/biomass00.htm . The Soil Bank in the CRP program is currently about 34 million acres and growing. You might ask someone on Iogen's BOD whether it would make sense to contact the US DOE and the USDA and offer them a solution to make their biomass fuel project succeed. I see that Iogen's agreement allowing the use of Purdue Yeast is not exclusive. Archer Daniels Midland or some other US company could show some wisdom and do the same thing, but Iogen could sew up the ethanol market in the US and Canada.


Excellent pointer, thanks!

S.P. Tiron Pradeep

Yeast is use to manufacturing ethanol form sucrose. We have supply high/optimum nutrition for get the best efficiency.can't we introduce Yeast which highly activate in low nutrient media. It must to cut down the cost of the production.

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