Australian Bioeconomy: Leaf Energy to fund first trial program on Actinogen’s bioethanol project

Perth, the capital of Western Australia
Perth, the capital of Western Australia

Actinogen Limited, heaquartered in Western Australia, has entered into a collaborative and royalty agreement with Leaf Energy Ltd in the company’s Bioethanol project. Under the terms of the agreement Leaf Energy, an Australian company focused on turning waste into biofuels, bioplastics and green chemicals, will fund further studies in Actinogen’s Bioethanol project; in which the company previously identified strains of actinomycetes capable of producing cellulases. Cellulase are enzymes used to breakdown cellulose from plant material, papers and industrial waste glycerols (biomass), and are an important step in the production of second generation bioethanols.

An independent study by the CSIRO has confirmed the Company’s ability to produce cellulases and it was shown to be more active than its comparative commercially available preparations using a well diffusion assay. Actinogen’s process can potentially be much more cost effective than current methods, and avoid the need to rely on precious and dwindling food stocks as the source material. The traditional method of producing cellulases is usually performed in an anaerobic environment at high temperatures, which is costly and requires significant capital for the infrastructure. The company can produce cellulases in an aerobic environment at room temperature, which may significantly lower costs.

Actinogen’s process is complementary to Leaf Energy’s glycerol pretreatment process which overcomes the current issues in biomass pretreatment using a highly effective and innovative technology that utilizes the cheap, recyclable, reagent glycerol in a simple process to break down plant matter into Lignin, Cellulose and Hemicellulose at low temperature and pressure. The cellulose and hemicellulose are then available for conversion to sugars using enzymatic hydrolysis and those sugars can then be converted to advanced biofuels, bioplastics and green chemicals.

Actinogen is dedicated to the discovery and isolation of a group of environmental bacteria known as the Actinomycetes. Actinomycetes have been shown to be able to use a wide range of unusual nutritional resources and often produce bioactive molecules as a by-product that have been proven to be useful to man; including well known commercial examples such as bacterial antibiotics, anti-fungal agents, anticancer agents and a variety of other chemicals that are used in the control of physiological and physical processes.

Actinogen and Leaf Energy aim to further improve the current enzymatic production processes and yields, and to identify additional strains of cellulase producing actinomycetes that would be synergistic to Leaf Energy’s glycerol pre-treatment process. The initial trials will be conducted in Actinogen’s new laboratory facility at Murdoch University’s SABC, by the company’s scientific team, in collaboration with Leaf Energy’s scientific advisors.

On success of Leaf Energy’s fully funded initial trial, the company will have the option to contribute further funding towards additional trials to explore the potential synergy of other actinomycetes in the company’s library, specifically those identified to produce lignases and Shikimic Acid, for the use in its biomass processes. Actinogen will grant Leaf Energy the rights to exclusive uses of any of the methods of production solely developed as part of the collaborative process in return for a net profit royalty on Leaf Energy’s future licensing arrangements, which are confidential in nature.

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