Trillium FiberFuels, OSU get grant for advanced biomass enzymes

By Trillium FiberFuels Inc. | April 24, 2012

A team of scientists from Trillium FiberFuels and Oregon State University has been awarded a Small Business Technology Transfer grant from the U.S. DOE to further develop innovative enzymes that could lead to new products from biomass and enhanced yields of cellulosic ethanol.

The award supports additional development of a unique enzyme called manganese peroxidase, which is capable of breaking down lignin, which interferes with ethanol production from biomass sugars but holds great potential to create biobased products such as adhesives.

“A low cost source of this enzyme will dramatically improve our ability to replace petroleum with biofuels and biobased products” said Chris Beatty, president of Trillium FiberFuels.

Initial work on the enzyme was done by Christine Kelly and Curtis Lajoie at OSU, with funding from several agencies, including a commercialization grant from Oregon BEST. Small amounts of the enzyme naturally occur in white-rot fungi in the forest, but Kelly and Lajoie have created a highly productive yeast that produces the enzyme. The funded research will develop the yeast strain toward commercialization and evaluate products created from lignin.

The value of the grant is $150,000 through the end of 2012 and qualifies Trillium/OSU to compete for a larger Phase II award in 2013.

Trillium FiberFuels is an Oregon-based corporation developing process technology for cellulosic ethanol production. Trillium was founded in 2006 and has received support from the Oregon Department of Agriculture, Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute, Oregon Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center, U.S. DOE, the USDA, U.S. EPA, and the National Science Foundation.