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Protéus and Syngenta to Collaborate to Develop Enzymes for Cellulosic Biofuel Production

Directed evolution through gene shuffling. Source: Protéus. Click to enlarge.

Protéus, a France-based biotechnology company, will collaborate with global agribusiness company Syngenta on the development of novel high-performance enzymes for cellulosic biofuel production.

Both diversity screening and directed evolution methods will be used for the discovery and the optimization of such targeted enzymes for the conversion of biomass into biofuels. Further details of the agreement were not disclosed.

Protéus uses a dedicated automated platform for functional protein expression and screening. Located in a Class 1000 cleanroom, it provides a throughput of more than 10,000 assays per day. (A Class 1000 cleanroom—equivalent to an ISO Class 6 cleanroom—has less than 1,000 airborne particulates per cubic foot.)

To feed the screening platform with functional proteins, the company built a comprehensive protein expression platform, including expression systems based on prokaryotes and eukaryotes. The platform also includes Phenomics, a proprietary cell-free expression system which provides tools for difficult-to-express proteins and for cytotoxic proteins.

Directed evolution enables the customization of protein characteristics to meet the needs of a target application. Directed molecular evolution mimics traditional breeding in an accelerated manner.

Protéus has developed the proprietary EvoSight and L-Shuffling (gene shuffling) technologies to create new variants of proteins starting from either a single parental gene or from a pool of parental proteins, respectively.

Starting from the parental gene(s) coding for (a) non-optimized protein(s), Protéus generate a library of second-generation genes. The resulting library is then expressed and screened to select the proteins having improved performance in the targeted application. This process can be repeated several times until the resulting protein meet or exceed the targeted specifications.

We believe that our strategy based on optimized enzymes holds tremendous potential for the creation of next generation biofuels. The collaboration with Proteus helps us to accelerate development by offering technology that complements our core skills in plant expression.

—Dr. Ian Jepson, Head of Enzymes R&D at Syngenta

In January 2007, Syngenta and Diversa Corporation (now part of Verenium) also entered into a 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. (Earlier post.)

Protéus focuses on the discovery, engineering and manufacturing of proteins of industrial interest, and on the development of innovative protein-based bioprocesses.



Continued good progress with enzymes that will speed the implementation of cellulosic biofuels. While BEV technology is racing ahead we still have to address the heavy lifting issues for trucking and rail. High lipid algae-based diesel seems best suited for these applications but an engineered ethanol with higher energy density could also be viable.

Somehow directed molecular evolution can be expected to play a growing role in GM processing.

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