The results of a field trial with genetically modified poplar trees in Zwijnaarde, Belgium, led by VIB – a life sciences research institute in Flanders funded by the Flemish government – shows that the wood of lignin modified poplar trees can be converted into sugars in a more efficient way. These sugars can serve as the starting material for producing bio-based products like bio-plastics and bio-ethanol.
“Sustainable production and use of bioresources from agriculture and forestry have a long tradition in Austria and besides the use of wood for construction, composite materials and energy production, the use of renewables and organic waste for the production of fibres, paper, chemicals, biodiesel, food&feed and pharmaceuticals are crucial to internationally leading Austrian industries active in production and engineering”. To say it in this exclusive interview with us is Anton Glieder, associate professor at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of Graz University of Technology and Scientific Director, Ceo and Cso of the Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (ACIB GmbH). With Glieder we talk about industrial biotechnology and the role of Austria in the European bioeconomy.
Interview by Mario Bonaccorso
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.
Researchers from the Department of Chemistry at York University have discovered a family of enzymes that can degrade hard-to-digest biomass into its constituent sugars.
BASF grows in biotechnology field and closes the gap on market leaders DuPont and Novozymes in the $3 billion industrial enzyme industry. The German world’s leading chemical company yesterday announced that it has successfully completed the previously announced tender offer to purchase all outstanding shares of common stock of Verenium Corporation, San Diego, California, for US$4.00 per share in cash. The tender offer expired at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (USA) on October 31, 2013. As of the expiration of the tender offer, 11,337,044 Verenium shares were validly tendered and not withdrawn in the tender offer, representing approximately 71% of Verenium’s outstanding shares, according to the depositary for the tender offer. Based on all outstanding shares and including all net financial liabilities, the enterprise value would be approximately US$62 million (approximately €48 million).
Beta Renewables, a global leader in cellulosic biofuels and part of the Mossi & Ghisolfi Group, and Novozymes, the world’s largest producer of industrial enzymes, today marked the official opening in Crescentino (Northern Italy) of the world’s largest advanced biofuels facility. Situated in fields in the Piedmont region, it is the first plant in the world to be designed and built to produce bioethanol from agricultural residues and energy crops at commercial scale using enzymatic conversion.
Basf, the world’s biggest chemical maker based in Ludwigshafen (Germany), agreed to buy Verenium Corp., a leading industrial biotechnology company focused on the development and commercialization of high-performance enzymes, to pursue growth in biotechnology and close the gap on market leaders DuPont and Novozymes in the $3 billion industrial enzyme industry.
At the Vienna University of Technology, genetic engineers have found a trick, thanks to which fungi can be used for the production of biofuels far more cost effectively than before.
Lignocellulosic waste such as sawdust or straw can be used to produce biofuel – but only if the long cellulose and xylan chains can be successfully broken down into smaller sugar molecules. To do this, fungi are used which, by means of a specific chemical signal, can be made to produce the necessary enzymes. Because this procedure is, however, very expensive, Vienna University of Technology has been investigating the molecular switch that regulates enzyme production in the fungus. As a result, it is now possible to manufacture genetically modified fungi that produce the necessary enzymes fully independently, thus making biofuel production significantly cheaper.
Enzymes could break down cell walls faster – leading to less expensive biofuels for transportation – if two enzyme systems are brought together in an industrial setting, new research by the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory suggests. A paper on the breakthrough, “Fungal Cellulases and Complexed Cellulosomal Enzymes Exhibit Synergistic Mechanisms in Cellulose Deconstruction,” appears in the current edition of Energy and Environmental Science. Co-authors include five scientists from NREL, the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development, and one from the Weizmann Institute in Israel.
“Currently what happens is that innovation created in Italy is then exploited abroad, due to a lack of direct access to on-site manufacturing facilities or industrial pilot plants. Closer cooperation between SMEs and large companies could accelerate the scale-up and industrialization steps, which often represent demanding investments for SMEs and –in particular at this rather difficult economical stage that translate in very unlikely access to credit, making it not always affordable”.
To say it is Sara Cantone, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Sprin, a spin-off of the University of Trieste founded in December 2007 that operates in the research, development, production and commercialization of advanced products for implementing sustainable chemical processes. In particular, Sprin – that since 2010 has had the participation of Venture Capital, AlAdInn Venture – is focused on the production of immobilized enzymes and the supply of services for the development of bio-catalyzed processes. With Cantone, we talk about the bioeconomy and in particular the role played by the enzymes in its development.
Interview by Mario Bonaccorso