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

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.... Read more →

Researchers at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and Michigan State University have devised a way to reduce the amount of enzymes needed to convert biomass into biofuels by designing and genetically engineering enzyme surfaces so they bind less to the lignin in biomass. This potentially could reduce enzyme costs in biofuels production.... Read more →

Taiwan team engineers E. coli to produce n-butanol from glycerol

Researchers at Feng Chia University in Taiwan have engineered the bacterium Escherichia coli to produce n-butanol from crude glycerol—a byproduct of the production of biodiesel. In an open-access paper in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels, they report that under microaerobic conditions, the engineered strain produced 6.9 g/L n-butanol from 20... Read more →

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

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... Read more →

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

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... Read more →

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... Read more →

Global Bioenergies plans to acquire Dutch start-up Syngip; gaseous carbon feedstocks for renewable isobutene process

Global Bioenergies, the developer of a process to convert renewable resources into light olefin hydrocarbons via fermentation (with an initial focus on isobutene) (earlier post), signed a contribution agreement with the shareholders of Syngip B.V. to transfer all Syngip shares to Global Bioenergies S.A. Syngip is a third-generation industrial biotech... Read more →

Global Bioenergies reports first production of green isobutene at demo plant

Global Bioenergies is now entering the final phase of demonstrating its technology for converting renewable carbon into hydrocarbons. The first trials on the demo plant in Leuna were successfully completed, within schedule, in the fall of 2016 and Global Bioenergies announced first production of green isobutene via fermentation. (Earlier post.)... Read more →

Lygos, Inc., a bio-based specialty chemicals company, closed $13 million in Series A financing led by IA Ventures and OS Fund. Other investors include First Round Capital, the Y Combinator Continuity Fund, 50 Years and Vast Ventures, along with notable angel investors. Lygos produces high-value specialty chemical traditionally produced in... Read more →

Using an engineered strain of the phototropic bacterium Rhodopseudomonas palustris as a biocatalyst, a team from the University of Washington, Utah State University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University have reduced carbon dioxide to methane in one enzymatic step. The work demonstrates the feasibility of using microbes to generate... Read more →

Researchers at MIT and startup Novogy have engineered bacteria and yeast (Escherichia coli, Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Yarrowia lipolytica) used as producer microbes in biofuel production to use rare compounds as sources of nutrients. The technique, described in a paper in the journal Science, provides the producer microbes with competitive advantage... Read more →

American Refining Group (ARG) is taking a 33.3% stake in Novvi LLC, a joint venture of Amyris and Brazil-based Cosan S.A. formed in 2011 to produce renewable base oils and lubricants from Amyris’ Biofene—Amyris’s brand of a renewable, long-chain, branched hydrocarbon molecule called farnesene (trans-ß-farnesene). (Earlier post.) Both Amyris and... Read more →

Researchers at the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), in collaboration with researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have developed a workflow that integrates various “omics” data and genome-scale models to study the effects of biofuel production in a microbial host. The development of omics... Read more →

Researchers at Nanjing Tech University in China have developed a new pathway for the production of liquid hydrocarbon fuels from lignocellulose. The new Nanjing Tech process uses acetoin—a novel C4 platform molecule derived from new ABE (acetoin–butanol–ethanol)-type fermentation via metabolic engineering—as a bio-based building block for the production of the... Read more →

Scientists from the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and Joint BioEnergy Institute have devised a new strategy for reducing lignin in plants by modifying a key metabolic entrypoint for the synthesis of the most important lignin monomers. The new technique, reported in an open-access paper... Read more →

UCR team advances direct production of chemical and fuel precursors in yeast

A team led by a researcher at the University of California, Riverside has adapted the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system for use in a yeast strain that can produce useful lipids and polymers. The development will lead to new precursors for biofuels, specialty polymers, adhesives and fragrances. Published recently in an... Read more →

MSU researchers fabricate synthetic protein that streamlines carbon fixing machinery of cyanobacteria; potential boost for biofuels

Researchers at the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory, Michigan State University, have fabricated a synthetic protein that not only improves the assembly of the carbon-fixing factory of cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae), but also provides a proof of concept for a device that could potentially improve plant photosynthesis or be... Read more →

Synbio company Intrexon and Dominion partner to commercialize bioconversion of natural gas to isobutanol in Marcellus and Utica Basins

Intrexon Energy Partners (IEP), a joint venture of synthetic biology company Intrexon Corporation and external investors (earlier post), and Dominion Energy, a subsidiary of Dominion Resources, have entered into an agreement to explore the potential for commercial-scale biological conversion of natural gas to isobutanol in the Marcellus and Utica Shale... Read more →

Like other major automakers, Audi (and its parent Volkswagen Group) is working on meeting its medium-term regulatory requirements (e.g., in the 2020 timeframe) by reducing the average fuel consumption of its new vehicles using a combination of three primary measures: optimizing its combustion engines for greater efficiency; developing alternative drive... Read more →

Delivery of renewable isooctane to Audi tips interesting potential non-biomass pathway for biogasoline; “e-benzin” as solar fuel

Last week, Audi and its partner Global Bioenergies announced that the first batch of renewable isooctane—which Audi calls “e-benzin”—using Global Bioenergies’ fermentative isobutene pathway (sugar→isobutene→isooctane) had been produced and presented to Audi by Global Bioenergies. (Earlier post.) Global Bioenergies, founded in 2008, has developed a synthetic isobutene pathway that, when... Read more →

Researchers at The University of Manchester, Imperial College London and University of Turku have made an advance toward the renewable biosynthesis of propane with the creation of a new synthetic pathway in E. coli, based on a fermentative butanol pathway. An open access paper on the work is published in... Read more →

New engineered metabolic pathways in yeast enable efficient fermentation of xylose from biomass

Researchers with the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), a partnership that includes Berkeley Lab and the University of California (UC) Berkeley, have introduced new metabolic pathways from the fungus Neurospora crassa into the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to increase the fermentative production of fuels and other chemicals from biomass. An open access... Read more →

A team led by researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana−Champaign has, for the first time, integrated the fermentation pathways of both hexose and pentose sugars from biomass as well as an acetic acid reduction pathway into one strain of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae using synthetic biology and metabolic... Read more →

Researchers at Kitasato University in Japan, Brown University in the US, and colleagues in Japan have found that bacteria could be a rich source of terpenes—natural compounds common in plants and fungi that can be used to make drugs, food additives, perfumes, and other products, including advanced fuels (earlier post,... Read more →

DOE JBEI team boosts methyl ketone production from E. coli 160-fold; advanced biofuel or blendstock

In 2012, researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) engineered Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria to overproduce from glucose saturated and monounsaturated aliphatic methyl ketones in the C11 to C15 (diesel) range from glucose. In subsequent tests, these methyl ketones yielded high cetane numbers, making them... Read more →

Researchers successfully engineer E. coli to produce renewable propane; proof-of-concept

Researchers from the University of Turku in Finland, Imperial College London and University College London have devised a synthetic metabolic pathway for producing renewable propane from engineered E. coli bacteria. Propane, which has an existing global market for applications including engine fuels and heating, is currently produced as a by-product... Read more →

UGA-led team engineers bacterium for the direct conversion of unpretreated biomass to ethanol

A team led by Dr. Janet Westpheling at the University of Georgia has engineered the thermophilic, anaerobic, cellulolytic bacterium Caldicellulosiruptor bescii, which in the wild efficiently uses un-pretreated biomass—to produce ethanol from biomass without pre-treatment of the feedstock. A paper on the work is published in Proceedings of the National... Read more →

Synthetic biology company launches JV to commercialize gas-to-liquids bioconversion; isobutanol first target

Synthetic biology company Intrexon Corporation has formed Intrexon Energy Partners (IEP), a joint venture with a group of external investors, to optimize and to scale-up Intrexon’s gas-to-liquids (GTL) bioconversion platform. IEP’s first target product is isobutanol for gasoline blending. Intrexon’s natural gas upgrading program is targeting the development of an... Read more →

Scientists synthesize first functional designer chromosome in yeast

An international team of scientists led by Dr. Jef Boeke, director of NYU Langone Medical Center’s Institute for Systems Genetics, has synthesized the first functional chromosome in yeast, an important step in the emerging field of synthetic biology—designing microorganisms to produce novel medicines, raw materials for food, and biofuels. A... Read more →

Energy density of petroleum-based fuels and advanced biofuels. Shown is the heating value of petroleum-based fuels (black) and advanced biofuels (green) as a function of density. Pinene dimers (red) have density and heating value similar to that of JP-10. Credit: ACS, Sarria et al. Click to enlarge. Recent progress in... Read more →

Berkeley Lab-led team re-engineering new enzyme and metabolic cycle for direct production of liquid transportation fuels from methane

A Berkeley Lab-led team is working to re-engineer an enzyme for the efficient conversion of methane to liquid hydrocarbon transportation fuels. The project was awarded $3.5 million by the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) as part of its REMOTE (Reducing Emissions using Methanotrophic Organisms for Transportation Energy) program.... Read more →

Venter: algae biofuels require “real scientific breakthroughs”; biofuels need a carbon tax to be viable

During his keynote and subsequent question-and-answer session at the BIO Pacific Rim Summit on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy in San Diego this week, Dr. Craig Venter, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, J. Craig Venter Institute and Founder and CEO, Synthetic Genomics, Inc. (SGI) tangentially provided a brief update on the status... Read more →

UCLA engineers develop new metabolic pathway for more efficient conversion of glucose into biofuels; possible 50% increase in biorefinery yield

Researchers at UCLA led by Dr. James Liao have created a new synthetic metabolic pathway for breaking down glucose that could lead to a 50% increase in the production of biofuels. The new pathway is intended to replace the natural metabolic pathway known as glycolysis, a series of chemical reactions... Read more →

ARPA-E awarding $3.5M to Berkeley Lab project to develop novel enzymatic gas-to-liquids pathway

On 19 September, the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) awarded $34 million to 15 projects to find advanced biocatalyst technologies that can convert natural gas to liquid fuel for transportation. (Earlier post.) The largest award in the technical area of High-Efficiency Biological Methane Activation in the new program, (Reducing Emissions... Read more →

DARPA awards WUSTL researcher $860,000 to engineer E. coli to produce gasoline-range molecules

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) of the US Department of Defense has awarded Dr. Fuzhong Zhang, assistant professor of energy, environmental & chemical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) a Young Faculty Award worth $860,000 to engineer the bacterium Escherichia coli to produce gasoline-range molecules. Zhang’s... Read more →

New materials for bio-based hydrogen synthesis; synthetic biology enables spontaneous protein activation

Researchers at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) (Germany), with colleagues from the MPI (Max Planck Institute) Mülheim and Université Grenoble, have discovered an efficient process for hydrogen biocatalysis. They developed semi-synthetic hydrogenases—hydrogen-generating enzymes—by adding the protein’s biological precursor to a chemically synthesized inactive iron complex. From these two components, the biological... Read more →

UK government establishing £10M center for synthetic biology with focus on industrialization

The UK is launching a new £10-million (US$15-million) Innovation and Knowledge Centre (IKC) to translate the emerging field of synthetic biology into application and provide a bridge between academia and industry. The IKC, to be called SynbiCITE, will be based at Imperial College London and led by Professor Richard Kitney... Read more →

Hydrocarbons produced by cells expressing the synthetic alkane pathway (CEDDEC) or the cyanobacterial alkane pathway (AR and AD from N. punctiforme) without modifications to the fatty acid pool. n = 6 biological replicates; error bars represent SE of mean. Howard et al. Click to enlarge. A team from the University... Read more →

DOE awards $10 million to 5 projects for advanced biofuels and bio-based products

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... Read more →

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... Read more →

Metabolic pathway construction for direct microbial synthesis of pentanol from glucose or glycerol. The pentanol biosynthetic pathway consists of three modules, each of which was validated separately and then assembled together. Tseng and Prather 2012. Click to enlarge. Researchers at MIT have adapted the butanol pathway for the synthesis of... Read more →

Calysta is using its proprietary BioGTL biological gas-to-liquids platform to convert natural gas to liquid hydrocarbons. Click to enlarge. Start-up Calysta Energy plans to use methane as a feedstock for engineered organisms to produce liquid hydrocarbon fuels and high value chemicals that are cost-effective, scalable and reduce environmental impact. Current... Read more →

Amyris awarded $8M DARPA Living Foundries contract

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... Read more →

DOE to fund up to $12M in FY 2012 for work on innovative biosynthetic pathways for transformational improvements in biofuels production

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is soliciting (DE-FOA-0000719) research projects for up approximately $12 million in awards in FY 2012 for work on biosynthetic pathways for advanced biofuels to demonstrate transformational, not incremental, improvements in yield and productivity. Synthetic biology technologies hold promise for addressing critical barriers in the... Read more →

Obama Administration releases National Bioeconomy Blueprint; health, food, energy and environment

The White House today released a national Bioeconomy Blueprint, a comprehensive approach to harnessing innovations in biological research to address national challenges in health, food, energy, and the environment. In coordination with the Blueprint’s release, Federal officials also announced a number of new commitments to help achieve the Blueprint’s goals.... Read more →

Characterization of N. gaditana lipid content. (a) Lipid droplets (green) in cells during logarithmic growth. (b) Lipid droplets in cells during stationary phase. (c) GC-FID chromatogram showing a typical N. gaditana fatty acid profile. Source: Radakovits et al., Supplementary material. Click to enlarge. With the goal of transforming a natively... Read more →

An integrated electromicrobial process to convert CO2 to higher alcohols. Electricity powered the electrochemical CO2 reduction on the cathode to produce formate, which is converted to isobutanol and 3MB by the engineered R. eutropha. Li et al. Click to enlarge. Researchers at UCLA have demonstrated a method for converting carbon... Read more →

JBEI team develops new synthetic system and approach for dynamic regulation of metabolic pathways to improve microbial production of fuels and chemicals production

Researchers with the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have developed a new synthetic system and approach that can significantly boost the engineered microbial production of renewable fuels or chemicals. This new technique—dubbed a dynamic sensor-regulator system (DSRS)—uses a transcription factor that senses key intermediates and dynamically... Read more →

Joint BioEnergy Institute team engineers E. coli to overproduce diesel-range methyl ketones; may be appropriate for blendstock

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have engineered Escherichia coli bacteria to overproduce saturated and monounsaturated aliphatic methyl ketones in the C11 to C15 (diesel) range from glucose. In subsequent tests, these methyl ketones yielded high cetane numbers, making them promising candidates for the... Read more →

Design-driven engineering process. Coarse-grained mechanistic modeling identifies design parameters to produce targeted device outputs. Components meeting the design specifications are then engineered and individually characterized. Transcripts are designed with kinetic RNA folding simulations, enabling the assembly of component parts into physical devices. Finally, device functions predicted from the parameter inputs... Read more →