[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]
Synthetic Genomics and ExxonMobil in new co-funded research agreement to develop algae biofuels
May 16, 2013
Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI) announced a new co-funded research agreement with ExxonMobil to develop algae biofuels. The new agreement is a basic science research program that focuses on developing algal strains with significantly improved production characteristics by employing synthetic genomic science and technology. Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.
In June 2009, SGI and ExxonMobil announced a research and development alliance focused on naturally occurring and conventionally modified algae strains. (Earlier post.) Over the nearly four years working together the companies gained considerable knowledge about the challenges in developing economical and scalable algae biofuels. (Earlier post.)
China team engineers cyanobacterium for significant increase in alka(e)ne production
May 06, 2013
Strains of the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 engineered by researchers from the Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocess Technology (China) increased their production of alka(e)nes by some 8 times compared with wildtype strains. Alkanes are the major constituents of gasoline, diesel and jet fuels. An open access paper on their work is published in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels.
Some of the same researchers had earlier reported the application of a consolidated bioprocessing strategy to integrate photosynthetic biomass production and microbial conversion producing ethanol together into Synechocystis sp. PCC6803, with the resulting engineered organism directly converting carbon dioxide to ethanol in one single biological system. (Earlier post.)
Univ. of Exeter team engineers unique biological pathway for the production of diesel range hydrocarbons by E. coli
April 23, 2013
A team from the University of Exeter (UK), with support from Shell Technology Centre Thorton, has modified strains of E. coli bacteria to produce “petroleum-replica” hydrocarbons in the diesel range. While the technology still faces many significant commercialization challenges, the resulting drop-in fuel is almost identical to conventional diesel fuel and so does not need to be blended with petroleum products as is often required by biodiesels derived from plant oils.
In an open access paper on their work published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, the researchers note that their work—rather than reconstituting existing metabolic routes to alkane production found in nature—demonstrated the ability to design and to implement artificial molecular pathways for the production of renewable, industrially relevant fuel molecules.
Joule expands solar CO2 conversion platform to produce renewable gasoline and jet hydrocarbons
April 15, 2013
Joule, the developer of a direct, single-step, continuous process for the production of solar hydrocarbon fuels (earlier post), has extended its solar CO2 conversion platform to produce renewable gasoline- and jet fuel-range hydrocarbons.
Joule has engineered photosynthetic biocatalysts that convert waste CO2 into hydrocarbons through a patented, continuous process. Joule has been successfully scaling its process for making ethanol (Sunflow-E) while also developing long-chain hydrocarbons for diesel (Sunflow-D). With this latest development, Joule can now also directly produce medium-chain hydrocarbons which are substantial components of gasoline (Sunflow-G) and jet fuel (Sunflow-J).
DOE seeks input on environmental impact of engineered high energy crops for fuels
April 14, 2013
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Request for Information (DE-FOA-0000908, RFI-0000003) regarding the potential environmental impacts of engineered high energy crops, such as those being investigated under the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA-E) Plants Engineered to Replace Oil (PETRO) program (earlier post), and potential future DOE programs to support the development and demonstration of such crops through field trials.
Such crops could be the source of significant fuel resources from biological production DOE said, noting that therefore it is extremely important to understand their potential impact on the environment. DOE will consider responses to the RFI in the development of an Advance Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), which would analyze the potential environmental impacts of such DOE programs.
Anglo-Brazilian JV to launch first commercial bagasse cellulosic ethanol production plant in Brazil
UK-based TMO Renewables (TMO) and Usina Santa Maria Ltda have entered into an agreement to form a joint venture to build the first commercial production plant in Brazil to convert sugar cane waste (bagasse) to cellulosic bioethanol.
TMO signed a binding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Usina Santa Maria Ltda to build Brazil’s first cellulosic bioethanol production facility in São Paulo state. Under the MOU, TMO in joint venture with Usina Santa Maria Ltda will first build, own and operate a 10-million liter (2.6-million gallon US) second-generation ethanol pilot plant to convert bagasse to cellulosic bioethanol.
EBEI researchers shed light on how multiple cellulase enzymes attack cellulose; potential avenue to boosting sugar yields for biofuels
April 08, 2013
|PALM enables researchers to quantify how and where enzymes are binding to the surface of cellulose in heterogeneous surfaces, such as those in plant cell walls. Source: Berkeley Lab. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers with the Energy Biosciences Institute, University of California, Berkeley have provided insight into how multiple cellulase enzymes attack cellulose, potentially yielding a way to improve the collective catalytic activity of enzyme cocktails that can boost the yields of sugars for making fuels.
Increasing the sugar yields from cellulosic biomass to help bring down biofuel production costs is essential for the widespread commercial adoption of these fuels. A paper on their work is published in Nature Chemical Biology.
Virginia Tech team develops process for high-yield production of hydrogen from xylose under mild conditions
April 03, 2013
|Flow of the new process; enzymes are in red. Credit: Martín del Campo et al. Click to enlarge.|
A team of Virginia Tech researchers, led by Dr. Y.H. Percival Zhang, has developed a process to convert xylose—the second-most abundant sugar in plants—into hydrogen with approaching 100% of the theoretical yield. The findings of their study, published in the journal Angewandte Chemie, International Edition, suggest that cell-free biosystems could produce hydrogen from biomass xylose at low cost.
In the process, hydrogen is produced from xylose and water in one reactor containing 13 enzymes, including a novel polyphosphate xylulokinase (XK). The method can be performed using any source of biomass.
Joint BioEnergy Institute researchers engineer plant cell walls to boost sugar yields and reduce cell wall recalcitrance for biofuels
April 01, 2013
|Genetically engineered Arabidopsis plants (#89) yielded as much biomass as wild types (WT) but with enhanced polysaccharide deposition in the fibers of their cell walls. (Image courtesy of JBEI.) Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have developed a new approach to decrease lignin content in biomass while preventing vessel collapse and have devised a new strategy to boost transcription factor expression in native tissues. A paper describing their work recently was published in Plant Biotechnology Journal.
Abundant lignocellulosic biomass could potentially supply the sugars needed to produce advanced biofuels that can supplement or replace fossil fuels, providing several key technical challenges are met. One of these challenges is finding ways to more cost-effectively extract those sugars.
UGA/NCSU team engineers hyperthermophilic bacterium to produce industrial chemical building blocks from CO2 and H2; ARPA-E project
March 26, 2013
Researchers at the University of Georgia and North Carolina State University have used a unique temperature-dependent approach in engineering a hyperthermophilic archaeon, Pyrococcus furiosus to be able to use CO2 and hydrogen to produce 3-hydroxypropionic acid, one of the top 12 industrial chemical building blocks.
The research, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences (PNAS), was supported by the Department of Energy as part of the Electrofuels Program of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) under Grant DE-AR0000081. (Earlier post.)
Researchers develop high-rate, high-yield bacterial process to convert methane to methanol
March 22, 2013
|Cartoon of the process. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at Columbia University have developed a biological process utilizing autotrophic ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) for the conversion of methane (CH4) to methanol (CH3OH). A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.
In fed-batch reactors using mixed nitrifying enrichment cultures from a continuous bioreactor, up to 59.89 ± 1.12 mg COD/L (COD = chemical oxygen demand, an indirect measurement of organic compounds in water) of CH3OH was produced within an incubation time of 7 h—approximately 10x the yield obtained previously using pure cultures of Nitrosomonas europaea. The maximum specific rate of CH4 to CH3OH conversion obtained during this study was 0.82 mg CH3OH COD/mg AOB biomass COD-d—1.5x times the highest value reported with pure cultures.
ARPA-E to award up to $20M to projects for bioconversion of methane to liquid fuels; seeking <$2/gge and ability to meet US demand for transportation fuels
March 17, 2013
The US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) has issued a Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0000881) for up to $20 million to fund the development of bioconversion technologies to convert methane into liquid fuels. (Earlier post.) This program envisions the development of transformative bioconversion technologies that are capable of producing liquid fuels economically from natural gas at less than $2 per gallon of gasoline equivalent and at levels sufficient to meet US demand for transportation fuels.
Of interest for the Reducing Emissions Using Methanotrophic Organisms For Transportation Energy (REMOTE) program are biological routes to improve the rates and energy efficiencies of methane activation and subsequent fuel synthesis, as well as approaches to engineer high-productivity methane conversion processes. REMOTE considers three technical categories:
Codexis introduces next-generation Codexyme cellulase enzymes with improved performance for reduced costs
March 12, 2013
|Codexis has delivered significant improvements in enzyme performance (left) and enzyme manufacturing cost (right). Source: Codexis. Click to enlarge.|
Codexis, Inc., a developer of engineered enzymes for pharmaceutical, biofuel and chemical production, launched CodeXyme 4 and CodeXyme 4X cellulase enzyme packages for use in producing cellulosic sugar for production of biofuels and bio-based chemicals.
Codexis’ latest generation of advanced cellulase enzymes, CodeXyme 4 for dilute acid pretreatments and CodeXyme 4X for hydrothermal pretreatments, converts up to 85% of available fermentable sugars at high biomass and low enzyme loads. Combined with high strain productivity using the CodeXporter enzyme production system, this allows for a cost-in-use that the company believes will be among the lowest available once in full-scale commercial production.
Engineered E. coli from Rice University part of USDA-funded project to develop drop-in fuels from biomass
March 01, 2013
A process developed by researchers at Rice University is part of a USDA-funded $6.6-million project to convert lignocellulosic biomass to infrastructure-compatible renewable diesel, bio-lubricants, animal feed and biopower. (Earlier post.)
Patent-pending fermentation processes created by Rice bioengineer Ka-Yiu San and his colleagues use genetically modified E. coli bacteria to produce fatty acids from hydrolysates. Dr. San said his lab already gets an 80-to-90% yield of fatty acids from model sugars and hopes to improve that over the next few years. (San and his team also recently published a paper on their work on engineering E. coli to produce succinate (an ester of succinic acid) from soybean mash in the journal Bioresource Technology. (Earlier post.)
MIT team shows targeting metabolic pathways to mitochondria significantly boosts yeast production of isobutanol; potential for other chemicals as well
February 18, 2013
Researchers from MIT and the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research have devised a way to boost significantly isobutanol production in yeast by engineering isobutanol synthesis to take place entirely within mitochondria.
They showed that targeting metabolic pathways to mitochondria can increase production compared with overexpression of the enzymes involved in the same pathways in the cytoplasm. Compartmentalization of the Ehrlich pathway—a three-step catalytic breakdown of valine that produces isobutanol, earlier post—into mitochondria increased isobutanol production by 260%, whereas overexpression of the same pathway in the cytoplasm only improved yields by 10%, compared with a strain overproducing enzymes involved in only the first three steps of the biosynthetic pathway. A paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Biochemistry.
Engineered bi-functional enzyme increases output of bio-alkanes; “protection via inhibitor metabolism”
February 08, 2013
Researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory studying an enzymatic pathway that naturally produces alkanes—long carbon-chain molecules that could be a direct replacement for the hydrocarbons in gasoline—have discovered why the natural reaction typically stops after three to five cycles, and have devised a strategy to keep the reaction going. The findings, published in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academies (PNAS), could bolster work in using bacteria, algae, or plants to produce biofuels that need no further processing.
The cyanobacterial pathway, consisting of acyl–Acyl Carrier Protein reductase and an aldehyde-deformylating oxygenase (ADO), converts acyl–Acyl Carrier Proteins into corresponding n-1 alkanes via aldehyde intermediates in an oxygen-dependent manner. In vitro, ADO turns over only three times; however, the addition of more ADO to exhausted assays results in additional product formation. ADO’s resemblance to a group of enzymes with which the Brookhaven scientists were familiar drew them into working to discover why the enzyme stopped working.
SG Biofuels signs deals in Brazil to develop Jatropha as an alternative energy crop
January 29, 2013
SGB, Inc. (SG Biofuels) has signed agreements in Brazil with Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation), the country’s leading agricultural research institution, and with Fiagril, one of the country’s leading biodiesel refiners, to advance the development of Jatropha as a next-generation energy crop.
SGB’s strategic research partnership with Embrapa will combine the company’s breeding and genomics platform, including the world’s largest and most diverse library of Jatropha genetic material, with Embrapa’s leadership in the advancement of new technologies that have increased agricultural productivity in Brazil. Embrapa has identified Jatropha as one of the most promising new energy crops in Brazil.
New metabolic engineering tool for microbial cell factories for chemicals, fuels and materials
January 22, 2013
A South Korean research team led by Sang Yup Lee at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has developed a new metabolic engineering tool to construct efficiently microbial cell factories producing desired chemicals, fuels and materials. The new tool allows fine control of gene expression level by employing synthetic small regulatory RNAs; a paper on the work is published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
Biotechnologists have been working to develop sustainable processes for the production of chemicals, fuels and materials from renewable non-food biomass. One promising technology is the use of microbial cell factories for the efficient production of desired chemicals and materials.
Univ. of Washington and partners working to engineer microbes for conversion of methane to lipids for processing into liquid intermediates for diesel or jet fuels
January 03, 2013
In a $4.8-million project funded by ARPA-E (earlier post), the University of Washington, the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Johnson-Matthey, and Lanza Tech are working to develop optimized microbes to convert methane found in natural gas into lipids for further processing into an intermediate liquid for diesel or jet fuel.
The University of Washington is taking the lead and focusing on genetically modifying the microbes. NREL will be in charge of fermentation to demonstrate the productivity of the microbes, both the natural organism and the genetically-altered varieties. NREL will also extract the lipids from the organisms and analyze the economic potential of the plan.
JBEI-led team identifies galactan-boosting enzyme; important new tool for engineering fuel crops
December 21, 2012
An international collaboration led by scientists at the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) has identified the first enzyme capable of substantially boosting the amount of galactan in plant cell walls. The GALS genes governing the enzyme may become important tools for developing bioenergy crops, the researchers suggest.
Among the key challenges to making advanced biofuels—i.e., drop-in bio-hydrocarbon fuels—cost-competitive is finding ways to maximize the amount of plant cell wall sugars that can be fermented into fuels. Galactan, which is a polymer of galactose, a six-carbon sugar that can be readily fermented by yeast into ethanol, is a target of interest for researchers in advanced biofuels produced from cellulosic biomass.
Proterro secures $3.5M in new funding to advance its noncellulosic sucrose for biofuels and biobased chemicals; progress on patent on sucrose-producing cyanobacteria
December 18, 2012
|Proterro engineered cyanobacteria for continuous high-yield production of sucrose, which can then be used in the production of biofuels and biochemicals. Source: Proterro. Click to enlarge.|
Proterro, Inc.—the only company making sugar instead of extracting it from crops—has closed on a $3.5-million financing round led by current investor Braemar Energy Ventures. Proterro has engineered cyanobacteria (from the group consisting of Synechococcus and Synechocystis) that naturally produce only sucrose to secrete the sucrose in a continuous, high-yield process. The sucrose can then be used in the production of biofuels and biochemicals. (Earlier post.)
In addition, the company announced it has received a notice of allowance from the United States Patent and Trademark Office on a cornerstone composition of matter patent (US Patent Application No. 12/348,887) protecting the company’s sucrose-producing cyanobacteria and their new genetic code.
UCSD/Sapphire team shows marine algae can be engineered to perform as well as fresh water algae to produce enzymes and biofuels; removing the constraint of fresh water
November 27, 2012
Researchers from UC San Diego and Sapphire Energy, Inc. have demonstrated for the first time that genetically engineered marine algae can be just as capable as fresh water algae in producing industrially relevant products such as enzymes or biofuels.
The scientists engineered marine algae to produce five different kinds of industrially important enzymes; they suggest the same process could be used to enhance the yield of petroleum-like compounds from these salt water algae. Their achievement is detailed in a paper published online in the current issue of the journal Algal Research.
JBEI researchers discover gene to modify xylan for easier extraction and saccharification; most abundant biomass material after cellulose
November 12, 2012
Researchers with the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have identified a gene in rice plants the suppression of which improves both the extraction of xylan and the overall release of the sugars needed to make biofuels.
The newly identified gene—dubbed XAX1—acts to make xylan less extractable from plant cell walls. JBEI researchers, working with a mutant variety of rice plant—dubbed xax1—in which the XAX1 gene has been knocked-out found that not only was xylan more extractable, but saccharification—the breakdown of carbohydrates into releasable sugars—also improved by better than 60%. Increased saccharification is key to more efficient production of advanced biofuels.
Researchers significantly boost yield of isobutanol from engineered yeast using new synthesis pathway located in the cytosol
November 06, 2012
A team at the Institute of Molecular Biosciences, Goethe-University Frankfurt led by Prof. Dr. Eckhard Boles, has developed a new synthesis pathway for engineering the industrial yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to improve the production of isobutanol via fermentation. The work, noted Boles, is being done for the Swiss biofuels and biochemical company Butalco, of which he is a co-founder. (Earlier post.)
In an open access paper published in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels, the team reported achieving a titer of more than 630 mg/L isobutanol with a yield of nearly 15 mg/g glucose. The highest values reported before for recombinant S. cerevisiae were about 150 mg/L isobutanol and a yield of 6.6 mg/g glucose, they noted. Additional engineering should lead to even higher isobutanol production, they suggested.
MIT team develops new synthetic pathway and modular engineering toolkit for direct biosynthesis of odd-chain molecules for fuels and chemicals
November 03, 2012
Researchers at MIT have adapted the butanol pathway for the synthesis of odd-chain molecules and have also developed a complementary modular toolkit to facilitate pathway construction, characterization, and optimization in engineered Escherichia coli bacteria.
The modular nature of the pathway enables multi-entry and multi-exit biosynthesis of various odd-chain compounds at high efficiency. By varying combinations of the pathway and toolkit enzymes, they demonstrated controlled production of propionate, trans-2-pentenoate, valerate, and pentanol—compounds with applications that include biofuels, antibiotics, biopolymers, and aroma chemicals.
Korean team uses systems metabolic engineering to enhance butanol production by C. acetobutylicum; reinforcing the “hot channel”
October 24, 2012
|Strategies for characterizing the complex butanol-forming routes by metabolic engineering coupled with system-level metabolic flux and mass balance analyses. Jang et al. Click to enlarge.|
Using a systems metabolic engineering approach, researchers in Korea have improved the butanol production performance of Clostridium acetobutylicum, one of the best known butanol-producing bacteria. A paper on their work is published in mBio, an open access journal issued by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM).
In addition, the downstream process was optimized and an in situ recovery process was integrated to achieve higher butanol titer, yield, and productivity. The combination of systems metabolic engineering and bioprocess optimization resulted in the development of a process capable of producing more than 585 g of butanol from 1.8 kg of glucose, which allows the production of biobutanol to be cost competitive, the researchers said.
NREL modifies organism to produce ethylene via photosynthesis: alternative to fossil-fuel based ethylene for chemicals and transportation fuels
September 26, 2012
Scientists at the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have developed a new photo-biological process for the sustained production of ethylene from CO2. The NREL team introduced a modified gene sequence encoding an ethylene-forming enzyme from Pseudomonas syringae pv. into a cyanobacterium—Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803—and demonstrated that the organism remained stable through at least four generations, producing ethylene gas that could be easily captured. Research results were published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science.
Ethylene—a valuable commodity two-carbon chemical that can be oligomerized into transportation fuels—is the most widely produced petrochemical feedstock globally. The organism produced ethylene at a high rate and is still being improved. The laboratory demonstrated rate of 171 milligrams of ethylene per liter per day is greater than the rates reported for the photosynthetic production by microorganisms of ethanol, butanol or other algae biofuels.
Purdue team awarded $5.274 million to manipulate a major plant metabolic pathway to produce biofuels directly
September 20, 2012
Researchers at Purdue University have received a five-year, $5.274-million award from the US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science’s Biological and Environmental Research program (DOE-BER) to support a project to reroute the carbon that plants currently use to make lignin and convert it directly into a biofuel.
In plants, the phenylpropanoid biosynthetic pathway leads to the deposition of lignin, a cross-linked phenolic polymer that makes the cell walls of specialized plant cells more rigid.The objective of the DOE-BER project, “Modeling and Manipulating Phenylpropanoid Pathway Flux for Bioenergy” is to reroute the molecule that plants funnel into lignin production—the common amino acid phenylalanine—into an alternative metabolic pathway to create phenylethanol, a combustible biofuel that could then be blended with gasoline.
Joule and Audi partner on sustainable liquid transportation fuels
September 17, 2012
Joule and Audi AG have entered a strategic partnership to accelerate the commercialization of Joule’s sustainable transportation fuels, Sunflow-E and Sunflow-D, for the global ethanol and diesel markets respectively.
Audi selected Joule as its exclusive partner in the development of biologically-derived diesel and ethanol—the result of extensive evaluations of Joule’s proprietary technology and commercial plans. The relationship will help spur production of Joule Sunflow-E and Sunflow-D, including fuel testing and validation, lifecycle analysis and support for Joule’s SunSprings demonstration facility located in Hobbs, New Mexico, which began operations this month. (Earlier post.)
Solar fuels company Joule commissions first plant to demo commercial readiness, launches Joule Fuels subsidiary to advance direct solar-to-fuels platform
September 11, 2012
Joule has commissioned its first SunSprings demonstration plant in Hobbs, New Mexico (earlier post), where the company will prove its scalable platform for solar fuel production using a fraction of the land and capital investment required for algae-derived or agricultural biofuels.
Joule has developed a highly modular system using highly engineered photosynthetic organisms to catalyze the conversion of sunlight and CO2 directly to liquid hydrocarbons and ethanol (earlier post). Unlike sugar-based biofuel producers, Joule directly and continuously converts solar energy into liquid fuels, without costly raw materials, pretreatment or downstream processing. The initial output of the SunSprings plant will be ethanol.
Berkeley Lab seeking licensees or research partners for microbial-electrocatalytic system for hydrocarbon fuels production
September 10, 2012
|The MEC uses electricity to split water into oxygen and hydrogen. The bacterium uses the hydrogen as an energy source to take in carbon dioxide and convert it to a biofuel, which it then emits. Source: Berkeley Lab. Click to enlarge.|
A Berkeley Lab team led by Steven Singer and funded by ARPA-E is developing a method to blend hydrogen-producing electrocatalytic materials with genetically modified Ralstonia eutropha, a common soil bacterium, to produce hydrocarbons in a reactor—requiring only CO2 and electricity.
In April 2010, the team was awarded more than $3 million by DOE’s ARPA-E to support a three-year project to develop the technology (earlier post), with a targeted outcome of 100 mg/L of hydrocarbon biofuel. Berkeley Lab has now made the technology, for which patents are pending, available for licensing or collaborative research.
Novozymes to market Terranol C5 yeast for cellulosic ethanol
August 28, 2012
Enzyme leader Novozymes and Terranol, a Denmark-based biotechnology company specialized in yeast, announced an agreement that will ensure the final optimization of the Terranol C5 yeast strain and give Novozymes the rights to register and market Terranol’s C5 yeast technology. Terranol A/S is a research and development company dedicated to developing and commercializing C6/C5 fermenting yeasts for cellulosic ethanol production.
“A yeast that ferments C5 sugars is essential to cost-efficient production of cellulosic ethanol. Our C5 yeast is among the furthest developed in the industry and by leveraging Novozymes’ global marketing muscle we can speed up its commercialization,” said Birgitte Rønnow, CEO of Terranol.
UGA team develops method for genetic engineering of Caldicellulosiruptor thermophilic bacteria; another pathway for efficient conversion of biomass to fuels and chemicals
August 24, 2012
|The UGA team reports a method for modifying the extremely thermophilic, cellulose-degrading C.bescii. Source: ORNL. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at the University of Georgia, who are also members of Department of Energy’s BioEnergy Science Center (BESC), have developed a method for the genetic manipulation of members of bacterial genus Caldicellulosiruptor, a group of anaerobic thermophiles with optimum growth temperatures between 65 °C and 78 °C (149–172 °F). (Earlier post.)
In a paper in the open-access journal PLoS ONE, the team reports the first example of DNA transformation of a member of this genus, C. bescii. Their efficient and reproducible method for DNA transformation and the combined frequencies of transformation and recombination provide the basis for rapid and efficient methods of genetic manipulation.
MIT researchers modify soil bacterium for biosynthesis of isobutanol using carbon
August 21, 2012
Researchers at MIT have modified the soil bacterium Ralstonia eutropha to produce isobutanol and 3-methyl-1-butanol (branched-chain higher alcohols). These branched-chain higher alcohols can directly substitute for fossil-based fuels and be employed within the current infrastructure. The work is funded by the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E). (Earlier post.) A paper on their progress is published in the journal Applied Microbiology And Biotechnology.
When under nutrient stress and in the presence of excess carbon, wild-type Ralstonia eutropha H16 stops growing and begins producing polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB)—a complex carbon compound—as an intracellular carbon storage material during nutrient stress in the presence of excess carbon.
Amyris enhances strategic partnership with Total for renewable diesel and jet fuels; to form JV
July 31, 2012
Amyris, Inc. signed an amendment to its existing technology collaboration agreement with Total. (Earlier post.) Under the enhanced collaboration, Total reaffirms its commitment to Amyris’ technology and dedicates its $82-million funding budget over the next three years exclusively for the deployment of Biofene, Amyris’ renewable farnesene, for production of renewable diesel and jet fuel.
Farnesene is a 15-carbon isoprenoid hydrocarbon molecule that forms the basis for a wide range of products varying from specialty chemical applications to transportation fuels. Upon completion of the research and development program, Total and Amyris intend to form a joint venture company that would have exclusive rights to produce and market renewable diesel and/or jet fuel, as well as non-exclusive rights to other specialty products.
USDA and DOE select 13 biofuels projects for more than $41M in awards
July 26, 2012
The US Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Energy (DOE) will award $41 million investment to 13 projects to drive more efficient biofuels production and feedstock improvements through genomics.
Through the joint Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), USDA and the DOE are working to develop economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass and increase the availability of renewable fuels and biobased products. Five projects newly selected will help to replace the need for gasoline and diesel in vehicles. The cost-shared projects include:
Eni’s Versalis to partner with Genomatica and Novamont for bio-based butadiene; rubber for tires
July 24, 2012
Versalis, Eni’s chemicals subsidiary leader in the production of elastomers, together with Genomatica, a leading developer of process technology for renewable chemicals, and Novamont, a leader in biodegradable plastics and pioneer in third-generation integrated biorefineries, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish a strategic partnership to enable production of butadiene from renewable feedstocks.
Butadiene is a major chemical building block for the petrochemical industry and is presently produced primarily as a by-product of ethylene cracking. About 10 million tonnes are produced each year, of which two-thirds are used to manufacture synthetic rubber, with the last third is used for nylon, latices, ABS plastics and other polymers.
BESC researchers identify key proteins in species of extremely thermophilic bacteria for breakdown of biomass into fermentable sugars
July 03, 2012
|The extremely thermophilic, cellulose-degrading Caldicellulosiruptor bescii. Source: ORNL. Click to enlarge.|
A team of researchers at the Department of Energy’s BioEnergy Science Center from North Carolina State University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Georgia have analyzed the genomes of eight species of extremely thermophilic bacteria from the genus Caldicellulosiruptor and identified key proteins for the deconstruction of plant biomass into fermentable sugars. Team members had published the complete genome of five Caldicellulosiruptor species early in January; three had been reported previously.
The genus Caldicellulosiruptor, found in globally diverse sites from New Zealand to Iceland to Russia, contains the most thermophilic (optimal growth temperatures range from 70–78 °C, or 158–172 °F), plant biomass-degrading bacteria isolated to date. The analysis could aid in the production of next-generation biofuels.
Amyris awarded $8M DARPA Living Foundries contract
June 12, 2012
Renewable fuels and chemicals company Amyris, Inc. has been awarded a contract from the US Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) under its Living Foundries program solicitation (earlier post) to develop tools that can expand the scope of Amyris's industrial synthetic biology technology platform across various biological platforms and cell types.
The contract is worth approximately $8 million in funds to Amyris, conditioned on meeting certain technical milestones in connection with the DARPA’s Living Foundries research program, announced in 2011. The Living Foundries program aims to create a rapid, reliable manufacturing capability in which multiple cellular functions can be fabricated, mixed and matched on demand and the whole system controlled by integrated circuitry, opening up the full space of biologically produced materials and systems.