Harvard University’s Office of Technology Development and SunEthanol, Inc., a biofuels technology company developing consolidated bio-processing (CBP) technology based on the “Q Microbe” (Clostridium phytofermentans) (earlier post), have entered into a new research collaboration agreement.
Under the collaboration, Harvard Medical School researchers will work to develop new genetic strains of the Q Microbe—which Dr. Susan Leschine at the University of Massachusetts reported in 2002—to produce ethanol from a variety of plentiful biomass feedstocks, including switchgrass, corn stover, wheat straw, sugar cane bagasse, and wood pulp.
C. phytofermentans is an anaerobic, cellulose-fermenting microbe that rapidly degrades and ferments cellulose, pectin, starch, and xylan to produce H2 and “exceptionally large amounts of ethanol.”
The goal of the Harvard research will be to produce new genetically modified strains that might be capable of delivering higher yields of ethanol than the native source, a critical step in creating an economically viable alternative to the production of ethanol from corn. The research will take place in the laboratory of George Church, PhD, a professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Center for Computational Genetics.
The Church laboratory will apply its expertise in DNA synthesis and genome engineering to create modified strains that will then be tested by scientists at SunEthanol for improvements in biomass conversion and ethanol production. SunEthanol will have an option to license any of the strains created under the partnership.