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Syngenta and Diversa Enter New 10-year Enzyme Partnership for Cellulosic Biofuels

Syngenta and Diversa Corporation have entered into a new 10-year research and development partnership focused on the discovery and development of a range of novel enzymes to convert pre-treated cellulosic biomass economically to mixed sugars for fermentation into biofuels.

The new agreement allows Diversa to develop and commercialize fermentation-based enzyme combinations from its proprietary platform independently. Syngenta will have exclusive access to enzymes from Diversa’s platform to express in plants for enhanced cost-effective production.

Converting biomass to biofuels requires breakthrough developments in three areas: chemical preparation of the cellulosic biomass (pre-treatment), conversion of pre-treated cellulosic biomass to fermentable sugars by combinations of enzymes (saccharification), and the development of novel micro-organisms to ferment the sugars to ethanol or other fuels (fermentation). Developing cost-effective enzyme systems is essential to economically converting biomass to biofuels.

Under the terms of the new agreement, which replaces the companies’ prior agreement, Syngenta will pay Diversa $16 million of guaranteed research funding in the first two years. Diversa is eligible to receive certain milestone and royalty payments aligned to product development success.

As one result of their earlier partnership, Syngenta, a global agribusiness and third in the high-value commercial seeds market, is developing a genetically modified strain of corn that expresses high levels of alpha amylase—a thermal-tolerant digestive enzyme developed by Diversa that turns the corn’s starch into sugar for ethanol.

The engineered plants are designed to reduce costs by eliminating the need for mills to add liquid enzymes. The Amylase-T seeds do not increase the yield, rather they make corn easier to process. (Earlier post.)



Mark A

Seems as if it is years away, if they have to DISCOVER the enzyme, much less develop and market it. I also see trouble if this idea has to use only Syngenta's genetically modified corn seed to work. How do you stop cross pollinization from neighboring fields with a different modified seed? How do you make farmers use your seed? A lot of open holes in this idea...........


"The engineered plants are designed to reduce costs by eliminating the need for mills to add liquid enzymes. The Amylase-T seeds do not increase the yield, rather they make corn easier to process."

This sounds like a food crop turned into a fuel crop. They should work on the stover and leave the corn for food.

Rafael Seidl


the whole point of cellulosic ethanol is that it can use corn stover rather than kernels as its feedstock. Converting the stover to sugars (principally, glucose and xylose) is what you need the enzymes for. The pre-treatment turns the solid biomass into a wet pulp so the enzyme reactions are speeded up. Once you have sugars, regular fermentation delivers the alcohol - typically ethanol, in special cases butanol.

In other words, cellulosic ethanol need not impact corn kernel supplies. The stover is currently used as cattle feed, which would presumably become more expensive, raising the price of meat. Considering US meat consumption per head is currently at unhealthy levels, that may not be a bad thing.

On the other hand, cost-effective pre-treatment and enzymatic processes would facilitate the agriculture of pure energy crops such as switchgrass on currently unused land, perhaps even the commercial exploitation kelp or regular algae grown off-shore. This would be different from special oil-rich algae grown for biodiesel.

The key to making cellulosic ethanol attractive is to bring down the cost. Econsomically as weel as technologically, there's a big difference between a lab experiment or even a pilot plant and full-scale industrial production. The per-BTU cost the consumer pays at the pump has to be similar to that of regular gasoline or the product will flop, unless legislators decide to mandate market-distorting subsidies or regulations.


A guest on CNN yesterday said he expected Oil to go down to $20 a barrel this year. He said the reason for it was because 360 production facilities for alternative fuels would come on line in the US alone this year.

I for one would like to see most of our resources going towards the development and expansion of biodiesel and biobutanol. We could easily distribute these fuels with the existing infrastructure.



You do go on and the article, it is about a new kind of CORN that has enzymes in it! That means it is used for fuel.

John J Collins

send any help you can.



You can go on and on... read the article. It is about how Syngenta and Diversa's *previous* venture involved the development of corn kernels with built-in Amylase-T (which was meant to speed up their conversion to ethanol), while their *next* venture is expected to focus on the development of enzymes for processing cellulose (i.e. not corn kernels) into simple sugars, for the production of ethanol.


$20.00 barrel petro sounds like petro counter spin. They are running scared now they see how fast we're going to alt energy.

When algal oil and cellulosic ethanol comes online big oil's looking at a lot rusting refineries in the field. Guess they'll be needing those windfall profits they raked in the last six years.


What is the hangup with using "food" as an energy input? The developing world wants less subsidized food on the market hence the failure of the last WTO round.

Harvey D.

With $20/barrel oil, we will see sales of V-12, 600 HP, 9/mpg, 3+ ton, SUVs skyrocket in USA and Canada. Overall USA/Canada fuel consumption would double quickly enough and oil price would be back to $50/$70 range again.

Secondly, Oil producers could reduce production to force the price upward quickly.

Thirdly, cheap Oil would kill ethanol local production within a year or two.

Alternative fuels (an cleaner environment) need steady high Oil price.



It is not what they say they will do in 10 years, anyone can say that and guess what...nothing happens. Even if it does they will just be 10 years behind Iogen.

It is what they have DONE that counts and making corn with enzymes makes a food crop into a FUEL crop..pure and simple.

Cheryl Ho

there are developments in DME in China:
DME is an LPG-like synthetic fuel can be produced through gasification of Biomass. The synthetic gas is then catalyzed to produce DME. A gas under normal pressure and temperature, DME can be compressed into a liquid and used as an alternative to diesel. Its low emissions make it relatively environmentally friendly. In fact, Shandong University completed Pilot plant in Jinan and will be sharing their experience at upcoming North Asia DME / Methanol conference in Beijing, 27-28 June 2007, St Regis Hotel. The conference covers key areas which include:

DME productivity can be much higher especially if
country energy policies makes an effort comparable to
that invested in increasing supply.
National Development Reform Commission NDRC
Ministry of Energy for Mongolia

Production of DME/ Methanol through biomass
gasification could potentially be commercialized
Shandong University completed Pilot plant in Jinan and
will be sharing their experience.

Advances in conversion technologies are readily
available and offer exciting potential of DME as a
chemical feedstock
By: Kogas, Lurgi and Haldor Topsoe

Available project finance supports the investments
that DME/ Methanol can play a large energy supply role
By: International Finance Corporation

For more information:

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