EBI announces first patent, publishes annual report

By Erin Voegele | June 13, 2013

The Energy Biosciences Institute has been granted its first patent since the public-private research partnership was established in 2007. U.S. Patent No. 8,431,360, titled “Methods and Compositions for Improving Sugar Transport, Mixed Sugar Fermentation and Production of Biofuels,” was granted on April 30. The EBI filed the patent application in July 2010.

According to the EBI, the newly patented discovery resulted from work completed by teams at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to optimize sugar convert yields by yeast to produce ethanol. The scientists expressed the cellodextrin transports of the fungi Neurospora crassa in yeast, resulting in more efficient conversion of C5 and C6 sugars when compared to the transfer of genes into yeast to make xylose utilization possible.

Inventors include UC Berkeley faculty members N. Louise Glass and Jamie Cate, Illinois faculty members Huimin Zhao and Yong-Su Jin, BP scientist Xiaomin Yang, former Berkeley graduate students William Beeson and Jonathan Galazka, former Berkeley postdoctoral researcher Chaoguang Tian, Illinois graduate student Sijin Li, and Illinois postdoctoral researchers Jing Du, Jin Ho Choi, Suk-Jin Ha, and Soo Rin Kim.

The EBI also recently published its 2012 annual report. The organization is a 10-year program funded by BP. In addition to UC Berkeley and UL-Urbana-Champaign, the collaboration also includes researchers from the U.S. DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The report includes a comprehensive summary of the 63 programs and projects that were active last year.

According to the annual report, the EBI funded eight feedstock development programs and 10 feedstock development projects last year, along with six biomass deploymerization programs and 11 biomass deploymerization projects. Regarding biofuels production, the collaboration funded five programs and 10 projects. The EBI also funded three environmental, social and economic impact programs in 2012, along with nine projects. Finally, the organization provided funding for three fossil fuel bioprocessing programs and two projects last year.

In a press release announcing the report, the EBI’s three directors point to two research achievements in 2012 they describe as “game-changing” innovations. In the first, scientists discovered a modified yeast strain that can simultaneously use 6-carbon and 5-carbon sugars, removing one of the barriers to using a continuous rather than batch process to produce biofuels. And in the second, researchers found a catalyst and a system for condensing the products of bacterial fermentation into diesel-like molecules.

A full copy of the annual report can be downloaded from the EBI website.