Gratuitous Inducer for Industrial Enzyme Production

Award Information
Department of Agriculture
Award Year:
Phase I
Agency Tracking Number:
Solicitation Year:
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Small Business Information
1230 Bordeaux Dr, Sunnyvale, CA, 94089-1202
Hubzone Owned:
Minority Owned:
Woman Owned:
Principal Investigator:
Tom Huang
Senior Research Scientist
(650) 391-7805
Business Contact:
Eric Hoang
Finance&Operations Manager
(408) 747-5201
Research Institution:

Cellulose is the most abundant biopolymer on earth. Photosynthesis produces biomass containing over a trillion tons of cellulose annually. This almost inexhaustible source of building blocks for biofuels, bioplastics, and other biochemicals, is key to a renewable, non-petroleum-based chemicals industry. Enzymatic hydrolysis of cellulose to glucose by the enzyme cellulase is the first step in converting abundant biomass into products useful to society. For any product, including bioplastics, where cellulose is the starting material, the cost of enzyme is a limiting factor. Improved methods of cellulase production are required before a renewable, non-petroleum fuels and chemicals industry can begin to yield environmental and economic benefits for society. We have identified one key technology to render cellulase affordable. During Phase I, we will characterize this inducer and commercialize it for cellulase production. The availability of this inducer will reduce the cost of cellulase and will accelerate the development of the cellulosic biofuels industry, as well as the development of biochemicals and bioplastics from cellulosic biomass. By displacing fossil fuels as a source of carbon for industrial and energy applications, this technology will reduce carbon emissions. On a life-cycle basis, ethanol from agricultural wastes or cellulosic crops has significantly lower carbon dioxide emissions than ethanol produced from grain. Thus, significant societal benefits accrue by reducing the risk of catastrophic climate change caused by increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Similarly, the technology we have discovered will make the production of biofuels such as bio-gasoline more commercially viable, by reducing the cost of a key upstream enzyme, cellulase. Thus, our technology has the potential to reduce reliance on petroleum-based fuels and foreign sources of oil. In addition, the availability of cost-effective cellulase will speed the development of manufacturing industries based on agricultural products and wastes such as corn stover and bagasse. Therefore, our cellulase induction technology is key to expanding the production of renewable energy from cellulose. Successful commercialization of our cellulase technology will make cellulosic bioproducts more profitable for manufacturers, driving innovation and expansion in the agricultural biotechnology industry.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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