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[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.]

Lygos partners with Agile BioFoundry and DOE to accelerate bioproduct R&D and commercialization; two-year, $5M pilot collaboration

October 17, 2017

Lygos announced that the US Department of Energy is providing multi-year funding for Lygos’ collaboration with the Agile BioFoundry (ABF) to automate research technology. Lygos’ pilot collaboration is part of a multi-company two-year, $5-million effort coordinated by the ABF.

Lygos produces high-value specialty chemical traditionally produced in oil-based petrochemical processes in a process that uses commercially proven, acid-tolerant yeast and domestic sugars instead of petroleum, and has pioneered the world’s first bio-based production of malonic acid (a C3-dicarboxylic acid). (Earlier post.)

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J. Craig Venter Institute-led team awarded $10.7M by DOE to boost lipid production in diatoms for next-gen biofuels and bioproducts

October 04, 2017

Scientists led by the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), a not-for-profit genomic research organization, were recently awarded a 5-year, $10.7-million grant by the United States Department of Energy, Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research (BER), BER Genomic Science Program to optimize metabolic networks in model photosynthetic microalgae, called diatoms. The aim of this work is to substantially increase oil (lipid) production, enabling next-generation biofuels and bioproducts.

Building on prior synthetic biology and diatom research, methodologies will be developed and optimized for introducing and transplanting new biological functions into diatoms—a globally abundant class of algae. Initial modeling exercises will guide targeted genetic manipulations, associated systems biology experiments, and result in iterative network and genome-scale cellular modeling.

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BTI, Texas A&M team devises new droplet bioreactor to accelerate search for optimal algal strains for biofuels

October 02, 2017

Researchers from Boyce Thompson Institute and Texas A&M University have developed algal droplet bioreactors on a chip that can accelerate the search for optimized algal strains for the production of biofuels.

The new high-throughput droplet microfluidics-based screening platform can analyze growth and lipid content in populations derived from single cells of randomly mutated algae to identify and to sort variants that exhibit the desired traits such as higher growth rate and increased lipid content. An open-access paper in the journal Plant Direct describes the work.

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DOE selects 4 more algae technology projects for up to $8.8M in funding; > $16M total

September 08, 2017

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has selected four additional projects from the Productivity Enhanced Algae and ToolKits funding opportunity (earlier post) to receive up to $8.8 million. These projects are intended to deliver high-impact tools and techniques for increasing the productivity of algae organisms in order to reduce the costs of producing algal biofuels and bioproducts.

Technical targets for the FOA include both demonstrable improvements in cultivation performance as well as in toolkit availability. Therefore, technical targets at project conclusion (anticipated in 2020) include achievement of an annual average algal biomass productivity of at least 18 g/m2/day, extrapolated from the combination of relevant seasonal data from the project and literature values for seasonal regimes not targeted by a given project, while achieving a minimum of 80 GGE per ton of biomass potential.The funding for this initiative now totals more than $16 million.

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Michigan State team identifies new enzyme to boost seed oil production for biofuels

August 13, 2017

Michigan State University researchers are experimenting with harvesting seed oil to make biofuels. In a recent study published in the journal The Plant Cell, the researchers show that the chloroplast, where plant photosynthesis occurs, also participates in new ways to provide seed oil precursors.

Seed oil is made out of lipids—small molecules found in fats, oils, waxes and membranes that make up the boundaries of all living cell components. They also store a lot of energy. The scientists identified a new enzyme, named PLIP1, or Plastid Lipade 1, that interacts with lipids inside the chloroplast.

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LanzaTech collaborating with Swayana to convert waste gases from ferroalloy production to ethanol

July 31, 2017

South African engineering company Swayana has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with LanzaTech to collaborate on developing projects for the production of ethanol and higher value products from waste gases in the ferroalloy and titania smelting sectors.

LanzaTech’s first commercial facility will be online at the end of 2017 in China, producing fuel-grade ethanol from captured steelmaking off-gas. The successful application of LanzaTech’s innovative platform in steel making has led to commercial engagement with companies in the ferroalloy sector.

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ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics double lipid production in algae species without inhibiting growth

June 20, 2017

ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics Inc. reported a breakthrough in their joint research (earlier post) into advanced biofuels involving the modification of an algae strain that more than doubled its oil content without significantly inhibiting the strain’s growth.

Using advanced cell engineering technologies at Synthetic Genomics, the ExxonMobil-Synthetic Genomics research team modified an algae strain to enhance the algae’s oil content from 20% to more than 40%. Results of the research are published in the journal Nature Biotechnology by lead authors Imad Ajjawi and Eric Moellering of Synthetic Genomics.

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DISCOVR project seeking high productivity algae to reduce cost of biofuels

June 12, 2017

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, with colleagues from Los Alamos, Sandia and NREL, are working to lower the cost of producing biofuels from algae. The project, called the Development of Integrated Screening, Cultivar Optimization, and Validation Research (DISCOVR), is funded by the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and has created an integrated screening platform for the rapid discovery of high-productivity strains for resilient, year-round outdoor cultivation via crop rotation.

The DISCOVR project, which started 1 October 2016, is currently in its first phase, and is utilizing PNNL’s Laboratory Environmental Algae Pond Simulator (LEAPS) mini-photobioreactors to cultivate algae indoors, in a controlled environment, while mimicking the frequently shifting water temperatures and lighting conditions that occur in outdoor ponds.

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U of Illinois researchers develop new capabilities for genome-wide engineering of yeast

May 06, 2017

In a new open-access paper in Nature Communications, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers describe how their successful integration of several cutting-edge technologies—creation of standardized genetic components, implementation of customizable genome editing tools, and large-scale automation of molecular biology laboratory tasks—will enhance the ability to work with yeast. The results of their new method demonstrate its potential to produce valuable novel strains of yeast for industrial use, as well as to reveal a more sophisticated understanding of the yeast genome.

The team focused on yeast in part because of its important modern-day applications; yeasts are used to convert the sugars of biomass feedstocks into biofuels such as ethanol and industrial chemicals such as lactic acid, or to break down organic pollutants. Because yeast and other fungi, like humans, are eukaryotes, organisms with a compartmentalized cellular structure and complex mechanisms for control of their gene activity, study of yeast genome function is also a key component of biomedical research.

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Researchers uncover mechanism behind oil synthesis in algae

April 20, 2017

Researchers led by a team from Kobe University in Japan have revealed the mechanism behind oil synthesis within microalgae cells. Many species of algae are capable of producing large amounts of oil (lipids), but this is the first time that researchers have captured the metabolic changes occurring on a molecular level when lipids are produced in algae cells.

The discovery could contribute to the development of biofuels. The findings were published in an open access paper in the journal Scientific Reports.

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CSIRO licenses technology to Amfora for production of oil in leaves and stems of plants; participates in Series A

April 17, 2017

US-based biotech startup Amfora and CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the federal government agency for scientific research in Australia) signed an agreement to advance development and commercialization of technology to produce oil in the leaves and stems of plants as well as the seeds.

Innovation Leader with CSIRO Agriculture and Food, Allan Green, said that this was the first of many applications of the technology, which can be used to produce energy-rich feed for livestock as well as for human food, biofuels and industrial uses.

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Scientists engineer sugarcane to produce lipids for biodiesel, more sugar for ethanol; ARPA-E project PETROSS

April 06, 2017

A multi-institutional team led by the University of Illinois has genetically engineered sugarcane to produce lipids in its leaves and stems for biodiesel production (lipid-cane). Surprisingly, the modified sugarcane plants also produced more sugar, which could be used for ethanol production.

The dual-purpose bioenergy crops are predicted to be more than five times more profitable per acre than soybeans and two times more profitable than corn. More importantly, sugarcane can be grown on marginal land in the Gulf Coast region that does not support good corn or soybean yields. A paper describing the work is published in the journal Biocatalysis and Agricultural Biotechnology.

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Chalmers team engineers synthetic enzymes for bio-production of fuel alternatives

March 09, 2017

Researchers at Chalmers University and their colleagues have engineered synthetic fatty acid synthases (FASs) that enable yeast to produce short/medium-chain fatty acids and methyl ketones for use in fuels and chemicals. A paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.

FASs normally synthesize long chain fatty acids, but the Chalmers team developed a new method to modify FAS by inserting heterologous enzymes into the FAS reaction compartments to synthesize the medium-chain fatty acids and methyl ketones—components in currently used transportation fuels, said Zhiwei Zhu, post-doc and first author of the study. “In other words: We are now able to produce petrol and jet fuel alternatives in yeast cell factories,” he said.

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Sumitomo using Amyris/Kuraray liquid farnesene rubber in Dunlop tires

March 06, 2017

Amyris, Inc. announced that Sumitomo Rubber Industries, Ltd. has adopted Amyris’ liquid farnesene rubber (LFR) as a performance-enhancing additive for use in the production of its latest Dunlop-branded Winter Maxx 02 tires. LFR is a liquid rubber developed by Kuraray Co. using Amyris’s biologically derived Biofene-branded β-farnesene. (Earlier post.)

The Winter Maxx 02 represents the brand’s best tire to date for on-ice and snow-braking performance and for durability. LFR’s performance enhancement will be available across Dunlop’s entire Winter Maxx 02 portfolio of 91 sizes.

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Researchers find shade from stand density can cost farmers about 10% of potential crop yield

January 30, 2017

A team from the University of Illinois has found that compared to top leaves, the shaded lower level leaves of C4 crops planted in dense stands such as corn and Miscanthus underperform, costing farmers about 10% of potential yield.

These findings, published in an open-access paper in the Journal of Experimental Botany, could help scientists further boost the yields of corn and Miscanthus, as well as other C4 crops that have evolved to photosynthesize more efficiently than C3 plants such as wheat and rice.

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DuPont Industrial Biosciences awarded grant for high-efficiency biogas enzyme production

January 26, 2017

DuPont Industrial Biosciences has been awarded a grant from the European Commission to demonstrate high-efficiency enzyme production to increase biogas yields as part of the DEMETER project, funded from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation program. Enzyme technology has been proven to improve biogas yields and process robustness, ultimately increasing customers’ revenue and profitability while increasing offerings in renewable energy.

The objective of DEMETER (Demonstrating More Efficient Enzyme Production To Increase Biogas Yields) is to increase the yield of this industrial fermentation process by at least 20%; improve the product recovery process by 40%; and reduce overall product cost by at least 15% while increasing the productivity of the process. In addition, DEMETER will demonstrate the efficacy of the enzyme in 8 field trials in biogas plants throughout Europe.

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MIT team engineers yeast to boost lipid production for biofuels

January 20, 2017

MIT engineers have genetically engineered strains of the oleaginous yeast Yarrowia lipolytica to boost the production of lipids by about 25% compared to previously engineered yeast strains. Their approach could enable commercialization of microbial carbohydrate-based lipid production, supporting the renewable production of high-energy fuels such as diesel.

A paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Biotechnology; the MIT team, led by Gregory Stephanopoulos, the Willard Henry Dow Professor of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at MIT, is now working on additional improvements to the lipids yield.

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UC Irvine team discovers nitrogenase Fe protein can reduce CO2 to CO; implications for biofuel production

December 28, 2016

A team at the University of California, Irvine has discovered that the iron protein (the reductase component) of the natural enzyme nitrogenase can, independent of its natural catalytic partner, convert CO2 to carbon monoxide (CO)—a syngas used to produce useful biofuels and other chemical products.

The team, led by Professor Yilin Hu (Molecular Biology and Biochemistry), also found that they could express the reductase component alone in the soil bacterium Azotobacter vinelandii to convert CO2 in a manner more applicable to large-scale production of CO. This whole-cell system could be explored further for new ways of recycling atmospheric CO2 into biofuels and other commercial chemical products. A paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.

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