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Optimized Deinococcus bacteria produce ethanol from biomass

13 September 2012

France-based DEINOVE announced that its R&D team and its partners in the DEINOL program isolated and optimized a strain of Deinococcus bacteria able to generate ethanol from wheat-based biomass. With production of an alcohol content of more than 3%, DEINOL exceeded its goal for this proof of concept milestone.

DEINOVE’s Deinococcus bacteria can degrade complex biomass residues into simple sugars and convert them into ethanol, all in a single process and without additives (such as enzymes, yeast or antibiotics).

This successful milestone triggers the payment of €1.15 million (US$1.5 million) to DEINOVE by the French ministry of industry (OSEO, ISI - Industrial Strategic Innovation - program).

Our results confirm the value of the DEINOVE technology for transforming biomass into biofuels and industrial products. Deinove’s teams and our partners are proud of this breakthrough. Deinococcus can degrade more than 80% of the plant biomass but can also potentially produce industrial quantities of bioethanol. We are now entering the pre-industrial phase of the DEINOL project.

—DEINOVE CEO Jacques Biton

Deinococci are robust organisms that resist ionizing radiation and other physical and chemical stresses—a very valuable property for industrial applications, DEINOVE says. Deinococci robustness is due in part to their unique ability to reassemble their genome after the latter has fragmented. These bacteria also developed the ability to assimilate exogenous genetic elements from other bacteria and even more complex living organisms. These successive assimilations have constituted a stable genetic mosaic which today confers the Deinococci with extraordinary genetic and functional diversity, DEINOVE says.

In contrast to conventional biotechnological approaches which seek to introduce new genes into fragile, simple bacteria (such as Escherichia coli) via genetic engineering, DEINOVE is exploiting the natural biodiversity of the Deinococci. This biodiversity facilitates the use of self-cloning between different Deinococci in order to combine complementary metabolic properties without creating genetically modified organisms.

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