LS9, a synthetic biology company developing fermentation-derived drop-in renewable fuels and chemicals (earlier post), has won a 2010 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for its “Renewable Petroleum” technology that converts sustainable, plant-based materials into low-carbon fuels and chemicals.
LS9 modifies the ACP pathway in bacteria to produce renewable hydrocarbon fuels and chemicals with optimized properties, including UltraClean Diesel and surfactants, which LS9 is commercializing with one of its strategic partners, Procter and Gamble.
The chemical composition of LS9’s UltraClean Diesel is compatible with the existing infrastructure and has a more desirable environmental footprint than conventional diesel. Production of LS9 UltraClean Diesel provides an estimated 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions when compared to conventional petroleum diesel, according to the company. In addition, LS9 UltraClean Diesel is free of benzene, a common carcinogen that is generally associated with conventional diesel products.
LS9 drop-in UltraClean fuels are designed to be cost-competitive with traditional petroleum-based fuels without subsidy; the company says they will be commercially available within the next few years.
LS9 was founded in 2005 and has received venture funding from Flagship Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Chevron Technology Ventures. The company has also entered into a strategic partnership with Procter and Gamble.
The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards Program invites nominations that describe the technical benefits of a green chemistry technology as well as human health and environmental benefits. The annual Awards Program is open to individuals, groups, and nongovernmental organizations, both nonprofit and for profit. The nominated green chemistry technology must have reached a significant milestone within the past five years in the United States (e.g., been researched, demonstrated, implemented, applied, patented, etc.).
The focus areas for the awards are: the use of greener synthetic pathways; the use of greener reaction conditions; and the design of greener chemicals. Typically, the US EPA presents one award in each of the following categories:
- Small Business: A small business for a green chemistry technology in any of the three focus areas.
- Academic: An academic investigator for a technology in any of the three focus areas.
- Focus Area 1: An industry sponsor for a technology that uses greener synthetic pathways.
- Focus Area 2: An industry sponsor for a technology that uses greener reaction conditions.
- Focus Area 3: An industry sponsor for a technology that includes the design of greener chemicals.
Another award winners for 2010 was the collaboration between Merck and Codexis, Inc.; the two jointly were awarded a Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for the development of a novel biocatalytic method for the synthesis of sitagliptin, a drug used to treat high blood sugar levels caused by type 2 diabetes.
A paper co-authored by Merck and Codexis scientists and published online 17 June in the journal Science details how an enzyme was systematically customized using Codexis technology to perform the key chemical step in the sitagliptin synthesis process.
No natural enzyme able to produce this compound was found. Evidence suggests that the new process may offer a 10-13% overall increase in yield of sitagliptin over the current process and a significant reduction in waste byproducts.