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Shell and Codexis Expand Collaboration to Develop Novel Enzymes for Next-Generation Biofuels

Royal Dutch Shell has expanded its collaboration with Codexis Inc. (earlier post) to develop novel, optimized enzymes to convert biomass to fuel. The new agreement covers five years of research collaboration and includes Shell making an equity investment in Codexis and taking a seat on the company’s board.

Research will focus on adapting enzymes to improve the conversion of a range of biomass into high-performance fuels.

Codexis uses proprietary technology for directed evolution and strain development to rapidly generate novel biological catalysts. These catalysts fall into two categories: enzymes and fermentation strains.

The Codexis directed evolution platform (“MolecularBreeding”) uses DNA shuffling to generate a library of novel genes or genomes via recombination of selected starting or parental genes or genomes.

Codexis then screens the encoded library of novel enzymes or strains for those possessing desirable and improved properties and repeats the process until the resulting enzymes or strains meet or exceed the desired efficiency benchmark.

One custom biocatalyst created by Codexis was 4,000-fold more productive than the natural enzyme used in the manufacture of a key building block of atorvastatin, the active ingredient in the world’s largest selling drug to lower cholesterol.

Codexis recently won the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for that work. The company additionally has customers or strategic alliances that include Merck, Pfizer, Schering-Plough, and Teva, for work on other enzymes for pharmaceutical applications.

The company has worked with Shell on biofuels since November 2006 and positive early results, including achievement of milestones ahead of schedule, led to this new agreement.

In 2005, Codexis and Cargill announced a major breakthrough in developing a novel microbial process to convert corn sugar to a specific chemical intermediate that could lead to the development of a new renewable chemical platform that could eventually replace some petroleum-based products. (Earlier post.)

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