Verenium, Scion receive research grant

By Erin Voegele
Web exclusive posted July 31, 2008 at 5:06 p.m. CST

Cambridge, Mass-based Verenium Corp. and its research partner Scion, a New Zealand-based Crown Research Institute, have received a three-year $5.4 million grant from the New Zealand Foundation for Research, Science and Technology. Funding is expected to begin in October and will be used to continue research under development by the New Zealand Lignocellulosic Bioethanol Initiative, which is a trans-Pacific research collaboration.

The New Zealand Lignocellulosic Bioethanol Initiative includes two Crown Research Institutes, Scion and AgResearch, which are New Zealand government owned science research businesses. Carter Holt Harvey, New Zealand's largest pulp and paper producer, and Verenium are also members of the initiative. Carter Holt Harvey recently completed a study designed to evaluate the infrastructure, technology and economics of a biofuel facility that would use softwood plantations forests as a potential feedstock.

The grant will be used to further evaluate the viability of producing cellulosic ethanol from New Zealand's softwood forest resources. Pilot-scale trials on pre-treatment and enzymatic processing will be conducted. According to Verenium's vice president of corporate communications, Kelly Lindenboom, the company became involved in the initiative last year and will contribute the technology expertise they have in fermentation processes to the research. The target date for the initiative's first commercial facility is 2015.

"We are very pleased to be recognized with this award, as we continue to advance our efforts in the development of next-generation cellulosic ethanol," said Carlos A. Riva, Verenium's president and chief executive officer. "This grant represents an important endorsement of our research collaboration with Scion. Together with our recent awards from the U.S. DOE, this grant adds support to our scientific efforts to advance the development of this rapidly-emerging global industry."

Scion Chief Executive Tom Richardson said the grant is critical to continue assessing the role domestically-produced biofuels will play in New Zealand's future energy supply. "New Zealand's aspirations for transport emissions reduction and sustainable economic development can only be achieved if global technology leaders like Verenium, local firms and domestic policy development are brought together," Richardson said. "We are pleased that the foundation has supported this scale-up program and look forward to the evaluations."