Glycos Biotechnologies succeeds in creating metabolic process for synthesis of biofuels and biochemicals from fatty acids.
Biofuels are mostly based on feedstock from edible crops such as sugarcane, sugar beet, corn and sorghum. However, their use has sparked concerns over sustainability and prompted the industry to look for alternative feedstock sources in nonedible cellulosic sugars (sometimes referred to as second generation biofuels).
But the availability of fatty acid-rich feedstocks and recent progress in the development of oil-accumulating organisms have made fatty acids an attractive option as well.
“Through our research, we were able to prove the effectiveness of fatty acids to produce higher value chemicals and at very high yields with an empirical ethanol yield double that which is usually achieved with sugars. These results demonstrate that fatty acids can be a great alternative to cellulosic sugars”, says Paul Campbell, GlycosBio’s chief science officer.
A microbial conversion process led to a pioneer metabolic mode that catabolises fatty acids and synthesises fuels and chemicals in E. Coli. From there, the researchers were able to synthesize biofuels including ethanol and butanol, and biochemicals including acetate, acetone, isopropanol, succinate and propionate from fatty acids. Like ethanol, all of these chemicals show yield advantages over the comparable sugar-based fermentation processes.
“We’ve been able to uniquely optimize the biochemical production of fuels and chemicals from microbial strains enabling a very flexible platform that can support a wide range of industrial and agricultural feedstocks,” said GlycosBio’s CFO Walter Burnap. “Edible oil-rich crops such as rapeseed, sunflower, soybean, and palm are widely available and non-edible fatty acid-rich crops along with industrial by-products are receiving more attention as longer-term alternatives. With this research complete, the industry can begin to realize the advantage of and choose a fatty acid approach to biofuel and biochemical production.”
To read a full report with more technical details, please go here and access a report entitled “Engineered Respiro-Fermentative Metabolism for the Production of Biofuels and Biochemicals from Fatty Acid-Rich Feedstocks”.
Article by Antonio Pasolini, a Brazilian writer and video art curator based in London, UK. He holds a BA in journalism and an MA in film and television.