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SBIR Phase I: Biocatalysts for the Production of Itaconinc Acid

Award Information

National Science Foundation
Award ID:
Program Year/Program:
2011 / SBIR
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
Solicitation Topic Code:
Solicitation Number:
Small Business Information
86 Exeter Rd Hampton Falls, NH 03844-2006
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Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No
Phase 1
Fiscal Year: 2011
Title: SBIR Phase I: Biocatalysts for the Production of Itaconinc Acid
Agency: NSF
Contract: 1113804
Award Amount: $150,000.00


This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project brings together a cross-disciplinary team of chemical engineers and biochemists from academia and industry to demonstrate the feasibility of manufacturing the renewable monomer, itaconic acid (IA) through heterogeneous catalysis. Presently, IA is produced commercially (15,000 tons/yr) by a lengthy (>4 day) fermentation of glucose by Aspergillus terreus yielding only 75-80% of theoretical values. Until now, methods to advance IA production have primarily focused on improving fermentation conditions and strain mutation. However, production rates and titers still do not exceed 1 g/L-hr and 80 g/L, respectively. Importantly, it is only in the last couple years that the gene encoding of the critical enzyme for IA production was elucidated. As a result, this project will use DNA from IA producing strains of Aspergillus terreus to create micron-sized biocatalysts. These highly specific biocatalysts will be utilized directly with crude citric acid (CA) broths to greatly improve the manufacturing process. By employing a packed-bed tubular reactor as a heterogeneous catalytic processor, these unique enzyme particles will function to convert CA into IA. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is to bring significant IA manufacturing, currently performed primarily in China, into the U.S. In using CA produced from renewable resources (such as corn and sugar cane) as a substrate, this biocatalysis manufacturing strategy has the potential to realize a $0.08/kg cost advantage over the current direct fermentation process. Such cost savings also offer an opportunity to compete more effectively with petroleum-based acrylic acid, creating demand for large-scale manufacturing of non-toxic, renewable products from 100% bio-based chemicals. Identified by the DOE (2004) as one of the 12 most important building blocks for future renewable materials, IA and its derivatives have use in a wide range of industries and applications as consumer safe, sustainable, renewable products, including paper, detergents, super absorbents, adhesives and paints.

Principal Investigator:

Jennifer A. Durant

Business Contact:

Jennifer A. Durant
Small Business Information at Submission:

86 Exeter Rd Hampton Falls, NH 03844-2006

EIN/Tax ID: 263233408
Number of Employees:
Woman-Owned: No
Minority-Owned: No
HUBZone-Owned: No