The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will award a $70,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract to Integrated Genomics Inc. to develop a method to produce butanol from biomass (cellulosic butanol rather than cellulosic ethanol) that is economically competitive with the chemical synthesis of butanol from petroleum.
In 2004, EPA had awarded another contract to The Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research (CPBR) at Ohio State University to develop a process for butanol from biomass. That project runs through September 2007.
The CPBR project is exploring a two-step fermentation process for production of butanol. In the first step, a butyric acid bacterium (Clostridium tyrobutyricum) coverts glucose and xylose to butyric acid, which is then converted to butanol by Clostridium acetobutylicum in a separate bioreactor.
Separating acidogenesis and solventogenesis in two sequential bioreactors, according to the CPBR team, allows better control of the metabolic pathway and direct more carbon source to butanol instead of other byproducts (acetone, ethanol, acetate, and butyrate) commonly found in the acetone-butanol-ethanol (ABE) fermentation, thus increasing butanol yield and productivity.
Also, a novel immobilized fibrous bed bioreactor (FBB) is being used for the fermentation to adapt cells to tolerate high butanol concentration.
Integrated Genomics provides a full range of products and services to support research in microbial genomics, biochemistry and gene expression. These products and services are based on ERGO, its bioinformatics suite for microbial genomics.
In August, Integrated Genomics and Mascoma Corporation entered into a contract to analyze the genome of a microbe important to breaking down cellulosic biomass for conversion into ethanol. (Earlier post.)