SBIR Phase I: Engineering process traits in biomass for lignin degradation to improve ethanol production

Award Information
Agency: National Science Foundation
Branch: N/A
Contract: 0712065
Agency Tracking Number: 0712065
Amount: $99,500.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2007
Solicitation Year: 2006
Solicitation Topic Code: BT
Solicitation Number: NSF 06-598
Small Business Information
DUNS: 132294062
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Humberto De La Vega
 (617) 945-1860
Business Contact
 Humberto De La Vega
Title: DPhil
Phone: (617) 945-1860
Research Institution
This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I research investigates the feasibility of engineering biomass with processing traits for ethanol production. Biomass will be transformed to produce lignin-degrading enzymes, modified with a biological switch to remain inactive during crop growth. After harvest, the enzymes can be inducibly activated from within the lignin structure to enable more effective degradation, allowing for significant cost advantages over current ethanol production. Cellulosic biomass is an attractive feedstock for biofuels. However, the conversion process requires severe operating conditions and expensive enzymes, leading to prohibitive costs. Embedded enzymes will enable effective processing without the stringent materials requirements, allowing for lower-cost ethanol production. The biological switch will prevent the disruption of normal crop development. The research objectives for Phase I are to create a library of the enzymes and screen their expression and characteristics in corn. The results will be applied to the Phase II goal of producing a corn plant with switch-modified lignocellulosic degrading enzymes for ethanol production from the entire corn plant. This research will have a significant impact the U.S. ethanol industry which has a market size of $10 billion and is growing rapidly by reducing the costs of production. Currently, corn grain accounts for over 70% of production costs, and recently higher prices for grain have lowered margins. Enabling the conversion of the whole corn plant into ethanol will provide for a more plentiful feedstock at a lower cost. The utilization of this feedstock would contribute to rural development, decreased greenhouse gas emissions, and reduced U.S. dependence on foreign petroleum.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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