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JBEI soliciting proposals from commercial partners to co-develop new target molecules

In a first-of-its kind program, the US Department of Energy (DOE) Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) is soliciting proposals from commercial partners to co-develop new target molecules.

The proposed targets need not be based on prior JBEI or partner IP. JBEI will provide $50,000-100,000 in in-kind support for activities such as feedstock development, process development and demonstrations, biomass deconstruction using ionic liquids, lignin conversion and valorization, retrobiosynthesis for a wide range of target compounds, metabolic engineering, and possible scaling up of a fermentation process up to 300 liters through a collaboration with the Department of Energy’s Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts Process Development Unit (ABPDU).

Selected industry partners will provide in-kind support for activities such as target characterization and modeling, additional scaling of the process as necessary, as well as formulation and testing of products. Partners will receive free non-exclusive rights and a first option to license exclusive rights to JBEI project inventions.

In addition to partnering with JBEI, companies may license the following bio-based product inventions:

  • Molecules from microbes. JBEI researchers have engineered yeast to produce high levels of long-chain, fatty alcohols in the 12-18 carbon range. This is the first report of a bioproduct generated by yeast from biomass feedstocks alone. These fatty alcohols could be used in personal care products, lubricants, and potentially biofuels.

    JBEI has also engineered E. coli using elongases directly to synthesize fatty acyl-CoAs for the biosynthesis of compounds such as fatty acids, aldehydes, alcohols, and alkanes with desired acyl chain length ranging from C10 to C18. These compounds are synthesized from the starter molecule, butyryl-CoA, and are produced more efficiently than in alternative approaches.

  • Renewable ionic liquids and soluble polyacids from deconstruction of biomass. JBEI’s Pretreatment and Process Development team has been awarded the Secretary of Energy’s Achievement Award for its contributions to the mission of the Department of Energy and to the benefit of the United States. The team pioneered the development of “bionic liquids” to enable one-pot conversion technologies that are feedstock flexible and economically viable to support production of biofuels and bioproducts.

    The JBEI deconstruction team has patented several technologies to convert chemicals derived from lignin into renewable biocompatible, or “bionic liquids”, for use in biomass pretreatment and other industrial applications. One approach transforms monomeric phenolic lignin depolymerized products or oligomeric and polymeric lignin, or a complex mixture mix of these components, to tertiary amine salts (or ILs) via Mannich reaction. Another JBEI approach transforms lignin, hemicellulose, and their depolymerized products into aromatic aldehydes that can be further processed to produce ionic liquids.

    JBEI also has a technology that produces soluble polyacids and dispersants from water-insoluble lignin using chelator-mediated fenton chemistry. The bio-based alternatives to polyacrylic acid have potential applications as dyes, paints, concrete, and pharmaceuticals, and could be used in diapers, cosmetics, paper, and ceramics processing.

  • Aromatics from plants. JBEI feedstocks researchers have engineered switchgrass and poplar plants to have reduced lignin content and enhanced cell wall digestibility, while also producing significant quantities of soluble protocatechuate (PCA). They diverted the lignin pathway by introducing the QsuB gene to achieve this result. Plant biomass is not compromised in the JBEI plants. This invention is currently being enhanced to boost PCA production and its conversion into muconic acid.

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