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.)