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Chromatin, Inc. to Optimize Sorghum as a Feedstock for Renewables Market Applications; Acquires Assets of Sorghum Partners and Milo Genetics

Chromatin has developed a novel approach to gene stacking, using plant DNA to deliver several genes on a single chromosome. Source: Chromatin. Click to enlarge.

Chromatin, Inc., a biotech company commercializing a mini-chromosome gene stacking technology, will expand its technology development portfolio to produce fit-for-purpose sorghum as a renewable feedstock for the biofuels, green power and renewable chemicals sectors. The company believes that sorghum varieties are most ideally suited as feedstocks based on their versatility, robustness and energy potential.

Related to this new thrust, the company has acquired the assets of Sorghum Partners, Inc. (SPI) and Milo Genetics, LP. The transaction provides Chromatin with access to SPI’s well-established multi-national network of sorghum growers and distributors as well as existing sorghum seed production facilities, representing over 7% of the sorghum hybrid market in the US.

Mini-Chromosome Technology
Traditional gene delivery technology with random gene insertion via an agrobacterium or gold particle has a limited carrying capacity (fewer than 3-5 genes). 100s to 1000s of plants must be screened to produce each product, with a corresponding long product development timeline (7-12 years).
Chromatin develops and markets novel proprietary technology that enables entire chromosomes to be designed and incorporated into plant cells. The company has developed a novel approach to gene stacking, using plant DNA to deliver several genes on a single chromosome.
These mini-chromosomes can be used in any plant to simultaneously introduce multiple genes while maintaining precise control of gene expression.
Chromatin has established mini-chromosome technology alliances and or license agreements with Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, and Syngenta.

The deal also provides Chromatin with commercially viable germplasm from Milo Genetics, which is underpinned by decades of delivering products to the market. The integration of SPI and Milo Genetics will accelerate Chromatin’s efforts to commercialize a portfolio of proprietary sorghum lines as bioenergy feedstocks, the company said.

In a presentation scheduled for today at the Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference in Washington, DC, Chromatin CEO Daphne Preuss will describe how feedstock genetics can impact biofuel yields, how optimal feedstocks like sorghum can be created with Chromatin’s technologies, and how the company has accessed market-ready feedstocks.

Sorghum is a globally cultivated crop with proven market acceptance and expanding commercial potential. The plant offers versatility for bioenergy applications because it is the only energy crop that can provide starch, sugar and lignocellulose. This makes it uniquely positioned as an adaptable, viable biomass source for both traditional and advanced liquid biofuels technologies as well as emerging markets such as biopower production, Chromatin says.

In addition, sorghum holds additional advantages as a preferred biomass source for sustainable bioenergy production the company points out:

  • It is capable of growing across a wide geographic area within the US, offering a broad opportunity as a multi-regional, locally-available dedicated energy crop;
  • Sorghum thrives on marginal lands, is water and nutrient efficient and provides a low overall environmental footprint; and
  • Sorghum does not directly compete as a domestic food resource.

Sorghum is ideally suited as the energy crop for the future. Sorghum is adapted to 80% of the world's agricultural land, is very drought tolerant, is extremely efficient on less than optimum soils, and has a very favorable carbon footprint compared to other major grain crops. By joining forces with Chromatin, we will speed the development and distribution of advanced sorghum bioenergy feedstocks worldwide, while continuing to support our existing customers. This is truly a step forward for sorghum.

—Larry McDowell, SPI’s President, and Chromatin's Director of Seed Operations

Chromatin will be further building and commercializing its sorghum product portfolio over the near term. Using a phased approach as a platform for improving sorghum over time, the company will use technologies such as compositional screening and analysis, marker assisted breeding and gene stacking to deploy proprietary feedstocks near term and ultimately to optimize sorghum for specific bioprocessors’ needs.



Many varieties of Sorghum are used worldwide for human food and animal feed. Using it to produce liquid fuels will have much the same effects on the food chain as using corn. Sorghum production rate is about 100 bushels/acre but removes 100 lbs of nitrogen, 14 lbs of phosphorous and 14 lbs of potassium from soil per acre. Those chemicals have to be replaced every year. As for corn and many other boosted cereals, a certain percentage of the added chemicals find their way to adjacent streams, lakes, rivers and finally into the ocean, namely the Gulf of Mexico via the Miss. river etc. Increasing production would increase soils, rivers and ocean pollution.

The main (or only) advantage over corn may be that it prefers warmer dryer climates. It does not grow as well in colder more humid climates where corn grows very well.


"....will have much the same effects on the food chain as using corn"...really HarveyD? I think you're overreacting a bit. It's not like Nebraska and Iowa are chock-full of sorghum fields for the nation's food supply, and will be carved up for biofuels, driving the price of anything sorghum related up for everyone. "Increasing production would increase soils, rivers and ocean pollution." Maybe a tiny bit if any, because wouldn't more biofuel mean less petroluem fuel, and less of all the pollutants emmitted in the production of the petroluem fuel, so no net pollution increase at the end of the day?


They grow lots of this in the central valley of California for animal feed. There is no reason why you can not grow the grain for that and use the stalks for fuel. Leave half on the land and return the biochar after gasification.

If you leave it all on the land, it just rots and releases methane. Farmers are getting carbon credits for no till so that more methane is not released. Biochar has been shown to enrich the soil since the ancient Mayans did it centuries ago.



Sorghum is one of the major worldwide grass-grain produced in all five continents. It is not at all sure that agro-fuels will reduce total pollution over crude oil. Soil, water and air pollution from modern day agriculture is already a major problem in many areas and will be more acute when agro-fuels (from corn or sorghum) is produced in very large quantities. Neither are very effective nor sustainable to replace current crude oil while feeding a fast growing world population.

The common sense solution is to progressively phase out most if not all our ICE vehicles and replace them with equivalent but much lighter recyclable electrified units. New ultra strong transparent resilient poly-plastics could replace most steel and glass parts by 2020 or shortly thereafter.

Basically, future vehicles will be very different, not a simple switch from crude oil to agro-fuels ICE. Very light weight (1000 lbs +/-) mostly plastics e-cars will be will be common place by 2020+. Drivers and passengers may be better protected in a resilient plastic padded vehicle than in the current steel monsters. It is a question of design & protection materials.

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