The US Department of Energy announced more than $10 million in funding to five new projects that will develop new synthetic biological and chemical techniques to convert biomass into advanced biofuels and bioproducts such as plastics and chemical intermediates.
Two of these projects will develop cost-effective ways to produce intermediates from the deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass, while three projects will propose new conversion techniques to transform biomass intermediates into advanced biofuels and bioproducts.
The awards will support projects led by collaborative teams, including universities, national laboratories and private industry. The following projects were selected for negotiation of award:
J. Craig Venter Institute (JVCI) (up to $1.2 million): This project will develop new technologies to produce enzymes that more efficiently deconstruct biomass to make biofuel. This work will be performed in collaboration with Synthetic Genomics, Inc.
Novozymes (up to $2.5 million): Through collaborative work with a team of partners, Novozymes will expand their existing capabilities to find new sources of enzymes which can be targeted to deliver more cost-effective solutions for deconstructing biomass into processable components.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) (up to $2.4 million): The goal of this project is to increase the production of fuel molecules in fungi growing on lignocellulosic hydrolysate. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will partner with universities and industry, including the University of Kansas, to complete the project.
Texas AgriLife Research (up to $2.4 million): This project will employ state-of-the-art technology to develop a novel and integrated platform for converting lignin, a component of all lignocellulosic material, into biofuel precursors. The team includes scientists from Georgia Institute of Technology, University of British Columbia, Washington State University, and Texas A&M University.
Lygos (up to $1.8 million): The overall goal of this project is to develop efficient, inexpensive methods and tools to convert biomass into common and specialty chemicals. This work will be performed in collaboration with TeselaGen Biotech.
Both Lygos and TeselaGen are spin outs of JBEI, a Department of Energy research center established in 2007 to pursue breakthroughs in the production of cellulosic biofuels. Lygos was the first in 2007 (with Jay Keasling, director of JBEI and a world authority on synthetic biology and metabolic engineering who holds joint appointments with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley as one of the co-founders); TeselaGen is the latest (October 2012).