|Mascoma/Lynd approach the use of cellulosic biomass as a sustainable resource from three vantage points: applied biology, process engineering, and analysis of resource and environmental efficacy. Click to enlarge.|
Integrated Genomics, a bioinformatics company, and Mascoma Corporation, a new cellulosic ethanol company, have entered into a contract to analyze the genome of a microbe important to breaking down cellulosic biomass for conversion into ethanol.
Integrated Genomics will use their proprietary ERGO bioinformatics software to annotate the genome and provide a reconstruction of the genome into metabolic pathways. Mascoma has also licensed the ERGO Bioinformatics Suite to characterize and optimize the microbial cellulose bioprocessing.
Mascoma and Integrated Genomics expect the current project to run through 2006.
Mascoma Corporation was founded in 2006 to pursue the development of advanced cellulosic ethanol technologies based on work developed in Professor Lee Lynd’s labs at Dartmouth College across a range of cellulosic feedstocks. Lynd is one of the scientific founders of Mascoma, as is University of California professor Charles Wyman.
Lynd’s group applied biology research at Dartmouth focuses on two related themes: organism development for consolidated bioprocessing and the fundamentals of microbial cellulose utilization.
Consolidated bioprocessing (CBP) involves consolidating into a single process step four biologically-mediated events: cellulase production, cellulose hydrolysis, hexose fermentation, and pentose fermentation.
Implementing this strategy requires development of microorganisms that both utilize cellulose and other biomass components while also producing a product of interest at sufficiently high yield and concentrations. Development of such organisms is a potential breakthrough that would result in very large cost reductions as compared to the more conventional approach of producing saccharolytic enzymes in a dedicated process step.
Because the CBP approach relies on microbial cellulose hydrolysis rather than enzymatic processing, fully developing it requires a fundamental understanding of the microbes’s use of cellulose. At Dartmouth, Lynd and his researchers work with Clostridium thermocellum as a model organism because of its high growth rate on cellulose together with its potential utility for CBP.
As part of its two-pronged strategy of technology development and deployment, Mascoma has patented numerous technologies for cellulosic production and is also forming a broad set of partnerships to commercialize new cellulosic ethanol technologies and processes.
The company closed a $4M Series A funding from Khosla Ventures and Flagship Ventures in July 2006.