Novozymes, Royal DSM Join DIVA Ventures

Novozymes and Royal DSM have joined DIVA Ventures L3L, a coalition that co-develops and co-invests in opportunities that have high potential to deliver positive societal impact in a sustainable way. The two organizations are joining as co-founders along with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and counsel partner Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. DIVA is a member of the European Venture Philanthropy Association

The announcement was made at United Nations HQ in New York by Thomas Videbæk, COO of Novozymes, and Peter Bakker, President and CEO of WBCSD. DIVA stands for Driving Impact Venture Action.

“In 2015 we launched a new corporate strategy, ‘Partnering for Impact’,” said Thomas Videbæk, COO at Novozymes. “The strategy is based on our strong sustainability-oriented corporate culture as well as the conviction that long-term business growth is best achieved by focusing on business opportunities that deliver positive societal impact. Co-founding DIVA is one of the ways in which we are enabling our organization to explore such opportunities.”

vcsPRAsset_524875_68967_c3d9206c-5beb-49af-ab5d-39ff8fe08bba_0Meeting development challenges in the global economy will ultimately require private sector leadership. Impact investors and socially responsible businesses face a gap – available capital and desire to participate, but not enough ventures or venture ecosystem in the developing world. DIVA presents a new model to help address this challenge. Working closely with its corporate partners, DIVA helps identify and mature impact venturing ideas that leverage existing corporate technologies, products and services.

The ultimate goal is to bring high-impact ventures to maximum international scale and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed by the United Nations in September 2015.

U of York Team Aids in Biofuel Enzyme Research

A global research team is working together to help develop more efficient production methods for biofuel production. Scientists at the University of York are part of this team looking at how natural occurring enzymes can be used to degrade microbe-resistant biomass. The research is part of ongoing study of a recently discovered family of enzymes produced by fungi and bacteria, which are able to break down tough cellulose-based materials such as plant stems. The hope is that by understanding how the naturally occurring enzymes work, they can then be improved for industrial purposes, principally the production of biofuels from sustainable sources.

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Photo credit: Julia Walton

Professor Paul Walton and Professor Gideon Davies of the Department of Chemistry at York, two members of the team recently presented the first published molecular structure of one of the key enzymes (lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases or LPMOs) involved in these processes. The paper appeared in Nature Chemical Biology.

The research shows how the ‘active site’ of the enzyme changes when it binds to plant cell wall cellulose, and this knowledge, say the scientists, is important in advancing understanding of the reaction chemistry.

“LPMOs have overturned our thinking about biomass degradation in biology; they are also essential components in the commercial production of bioethanol from cellulosic feedstocks,” said Professor Walton. This new structure will help chemists and biochemists improve the efficiencies of these important enzymes.”

Professor Davies added, “When we can understand structure and chemistry we can improve environmentally-friendly processes for the benefit of all. This work, by a combined European team, gives us unparalleled molecular insight into one of the key reactions catalysed by fungi. It is truly exciting.”

The new research resulted from a European consortium project entitled Critical Enzymes for Sustainable Biofuels from Cellulose (CESBIC) involving York and the Universities of Copenhagen and Cambridge, CNRS Aix-Marseille Université, France, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, and industrial partner Novozymes A/S in Denmark.

Berkeley Lab’s Enzyme Reduces Plant Lignin

One of the barriers to efficient second generation biofuels is creating a better way to break down the lignin in plants that is then converted to the sugars that create the building blocks of biobased products such as cellulosic ethanol, biomaterials and biochemicals. But this hurdle may be getting lower with research out of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Scientists have demonstrated an enzyme that can be tweaked to reduce lignin in plants.

This illustration shows the molecular structure of HCT that was derived at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source. The purple and green areas are two domains of the enzyme, and the multi-colored structures between the two domains are two molecules (p-coumaryl-shikimate and HS-CoA) in the binding site. New research shows this binding site is indiscriminate with the acceptor molecules it recruits, including molecules that inhibit lignin production. (Credit: Berkeley Lab)

This illustration shows the molecular structure of HCT that was derived at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source. The purple and green areas are two domains of the enzyme, and the multi-colored structures between the two domains are two molecules (p-coumaryl-shikimate and HS-CoA) in the binding site. New research shows this binding site is indiscriminate with the acceptor molecules it recruits, including molecules that inhibit lignin production. (Credit: Berkeley Lab)

Lignin is essential to plant health. It resides in a plant’s cell walls and surrounds and traps the sugars inside. In order to extract the sugars, the lignin must first be broken down through chemical pretreament. Thus, the less lignin there is, the less expensive the pretreatment step becomes.

The research was published in Plant & Cell Physiology and focuses on an enzyme called HCT that plays a key role in synthesizing lignin in plants and has been found to be indiscriminate with what molecules it binds with. With this discovery, the researchers introduced another molecule to the enzyme that occupies the binding site usually occupied by the lignin-producing molecule. This swap inhibits the enzyme’s ability to support lignin production. Initial tests showed a decrease in lignin content by 30 percent while increasing sugar production, without weakening the plant.

“Our goal is to tune the process so that lignin is reduced in a plant where we want it reduced, such as in tissues that produce thick cell walls, and when we want it reduced, such as later in a plant’s development,” said Dominique Loque, a plant biologist with the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), a DOE Bioenergy Research Center led by Berkeley Lab, which pursues breakthroughs in the production of cellulosic biofuels. “This would result in robust bioenergy crops with more sugar and less lignin, and dramatically cheaper pretreatment costs.”

Next the researchers want to learn how to adjust the temporal and spatial specificity of the enzyme’s lignin-reduction abilities in plants. They also want to further study the Advanced Light Source-derived enzyme structures to see if HCT can be modified to be even more attractive to the new molecules.

Goat’s Guts Lead to Better Biofuels

New research finds that some day your gas tanks could be filled up by horses, sheep and goat’s guts. Researchers looked at how the anaerobic gut fungi, as compared to engineered fungi, were able to convert plant material into sugars that could be converted into advanced biofuels and other biobased materials.

Fungi found in the guts of goats, horses and sheep help them digest stubborn plant material. A team of researchers report in the journal Science that these fungi could potentially lead to cheaper biofuel and bio-based products. Professor of chemical engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara Michelle O’Malley, was the lead author of the paper. She explained, “Nature has engineered these fungi to have what seems to be the world’s largest repertoire of enzymes that break down biomass.”

Fungi found in the guts of goats, horses and sheep help them digest stubborn plant material. A team of researchers report in the journal Science that these fungi could potentially lead to cheaper biofuel and bio-based products. Image courtesy of Daniele Faieta/Flickr

Fungi found in the guts of goats, horses and sheep help them digest stubborn plant material. A team of researchers report in the journal Science that these fungi could potentially lead to cheaper biofuel and bio-based products. Image courtesy of Daniele Faieta/Flickr

These enzymes — tools made of protein — work together to break down stubborn plant material. The researchers found that the fungi adapt their enzymes to wood, grass, agricultural waste, or whatever they were fed. The findings suggest that gut fungi could be modified so the produce better enzymes that will outperform even the best ones on the market today. With a more effective way to break down biomass, it should led to the development of less expensive biofuels and bioproducts.

O’Malley and her colleagues knew the fungi’s hyphae excrete proteins, or enzymes, break down plant material. The researchers understood that like tools in a toolbox, the more diverse the enzymes, the better the fungi can take apart plants and turn them into food. So the goal was to help develop this fungi toolbox for the bioindustry to use to better break down biomass.

“Despite their fascinating biology, anaerobic gut fungi can be difficult to isolate and study,” said Scott Baker, EMSL’s science theme lead for Biosystem Dynamics and Design, one of the agencies that collaboratively participated in the research. “By utilizing the cutting-edge scientific capabilities at EMSL and JGI, O’Malley showed how the huge catalog of anaerobic gut fungi enzymes could advance biofuel production.”

DuPont to Buy Dyadic Enzyme Business

DuPont’s Industrial Biosciences is purchasing Dyadic International’s Industrial Technology business. The two companies have entered into a definitive agreement that will sell Dyadic’s enzyme business to DuPont for $75 million in cash. Once the transaction is complete, Dyadic plans to focus solely on its biopharmaceutical business. The deal is expected to close by the end of 2015 pending approval by a majority of Dyadic’s stockholders and customary closing conditions.

Dyadic logoMark Emalfarb, Dyadic’s founder and CEO, said, “This transaction is an exceptional opportunity to unlock value and provide Dyadic operational flexibility to further develop our pharmaceutical business. We will now focus our C1 technology exclusively on the pharmaceutical sector where we believe it has the potential to help develop and manufacture drugs and vaccines faster and more efficiently than existing production systems.”

Dyadic will sell to DuPont substantially all of its enzyme and technology assets, including its C1 platform, a technology for producing enzyme products used in a broad range of industries. As part of the transaction, DuPont has granted back to Dyadic co-exclusive rights to the C1 technology for use in human and animal pharmaceutical applications, with exclusive ability to enter into sub-license agreements in that field. However, DuPont will retain certain rights to utilize the C1 technology for development and production of pharmaceutical products, for which it will make royalty payments to Dyadic upon commercialization.

“We are very proud of the C1 platform and our team responsible for its development over the past decade,” added Michael Tarnok, Dyadic’s Chairman. “We are pleased to be able to provide liquidity and increased value to our stockholders and look forward to building our pharmaceutical business.”

Novozymes Ranked Best Science Employer

Science Magazine has ranked Novozymes at the top of its Top Employers list. The publication polled employees in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers globally. The key characteristics the magazine was looking for in the ranking were ‘Innovative leader in the industry,’ ‘Treats employees with respect’ and ‘Is socially responsible’.

Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 7.57.47 AM“We are very proud to be recognized as the best employer by this leading scientific journal,” said Per Falholt, chief science officer at Novozymes. “We develop biological answers to some of the greatest challenges of our time. Our growing world needs more food, better farming, renewable energy, and clean air and water. Our products really make a difference, and I believe that is a great motivation for everyone at Novozymes.”

Novozymes has been a major player in the field since the 1940s. One in five of its 6,500 employees work in research and development (R&D), with the company’s main research centers located in Denmark, China, U.S. and India. Novozymes invests 13-14% of its total revenue into R&D each year. The company is the largest maker of industrial enzymes and microorganisms, and their biotechnology is used by companies around the world to save energy, water and raw materials in the production of a wide range of products from laundry detergents, textiles and beer, to biofuels, animal feed and crops. Earlier this week, Novozymes launched their next gen enzyme product Avantec Amp.

Novozymes Intros Avantec Amp Ethanol Enzyme

The ethanol industry has a new enzyme with the introduction of Avantec Amp. Developed by Novozymes, the company says the enzyme improves yield and throughput in corn ethanol production while also increasing corn oil extraction. The product also reduces the need for several harsh chemicals used in production. According to Novozymes, by switching from standard technology to Avantec Amp, a 110 million gallon-per-year plant can see up to $2.5 million a year in additional net profits.

Novozymes_logo_left“Avantec Amp enables yield improvements and chemical reductions that were previously impossible,” says Peter Halling, vice president – Biofuel, at Novozymes. “It will boost our customers’ bottom line and give them flexibility to adjust their various revenue streams based on market conditions. Ultimately, it will give them a competitive advantage in a challenging market.”

Avantec was introduced in 2012 and Avantec Amp is the next generation. The new products combines multiple enzymes activities into one product, and, says Novozymes, surpasses competing enzyme solutions by squeezing more ethanol from each kernel of corn, thus enabling increased output and saving energy and water. The company also says the enzyme can also boost corn oil production by freeing up oil bound in the corn germ.

In addition, Avantec Amp reduces the need for a number of chemicals used to control and accelerate production processes at ethanol plants. Urea, which is used to improve the fermentation of ethanol, can be cut by more than 70%. Surfactants and ammonia, used to extract corn oil and adjust pH levels, can also be significantly reduced. According to Novozymes,  Avantec Amp is the first enzyme product to replace urea and surfactants.

“By replacing these chemicals with enzymes you get greater safety for workers and lower costs,” adds Halling. “When you simplify the recipe, you reduce the risk of errors associated with handling multiple different compounds and you also have less need for storage.”

DuPont & Quad County Sign Enzyme Contract

DuPont Industrial Biosciences will continue to supply the enzymes that enable Quad County Corn Processors’ (QCCP) Cellerate process in the production of cellulosic biofuel from corn kernel fiber.  The ethanol plant developed the process and was the first in the country to produce cellulosic ethanol gallons from the corn kernel fiber. QCCP uses DuPont Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 8.24.19 AMOPTIMASH suite of enzymes from the DuPont Accellerase portfolio of cellulosic enzymes. The OPTIMASH enzymes are specifically formulated for use in the corn fiber cellulosic application.

The process was developed using DuPont’s enzymes. Over the last year of production, QCCP Chief Engineer Travis Brotherson has seen a marked difference in value between DuPont’s enzymes and its competitors’ offering. “DuPont’s enzymes have consistently outperformed other products in driving cellulosic ethanol and corn oil yield in our Cellerate process,” said Brotherson.

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 8.24.24 AMQCCP currently produces 2 million gallons of biofuel per year from cellulose conversion, but anticipates production of an additional 2 million gallons of biofuel per year once a C5 yeast is approved. The benefits of adding second-generation biofuel production to an existing dry grind ethanol facility are substantial – from additional ethanol, Cellulosic RINs1 to additional distiller’s corn oil. QCCP further estimates that their technology has the potential to enable grain ethanol plants in the United States to produce over 1 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol annually based on total corn kernel fiber conversion in the dry grind industry.

“DuPont’s goal is to enable the bioeconomy through science,” said Jan Koninckx, global business director for advanced biofuel at DuPont. “To reach that goal, we offer multiple solutions, from our full advanced biofuels technology licensing to delivering customized solutions in both enzyme technology and co-product production for ethanol producers. We’re proud to be a partner with QCCP, enabling the growth and success of advanced biofuels here in the United States.”

DuPont is commissioning its cellulosic biofuel facility in Nevada on October 30, 2015. The plant is fueled by corn stover and will produce 30 millions gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year.

Novozymes Launches Liquozyme LpH for Ethanol

Novozymes_logo_leftNovozymes has launched a new enzyme for ethanol producers who want to reduce their use of chemicals without sacrificing yield. Liquozyme LpH is an alpha-amylase effective at low pH that thins the mash by breaking down starch into shorter dextrin chains. A more fluid mash ensures more efficient operational performance for ethanol producers running their production at low pH. According to Novozymes, plant trials have shown improved viscosity levels and liquefaction, enabling customers to reduce their use of chemicals for pH adjustment.

“We were really pleased by our recent trials,” said Peter Halling, vice president for biofuels at Novozymes. “Ethanol producers can reduce dosing of both ammonia and sulphuric acid during the cook process. This saves costs and ensures a safer working environment.

Liquozyme LpH is the latest addition to Novozymes’ range of enzyme products for the ethanol industry, and there is more to come.

“Novozymes will continue to develop new technology for the ethanol industry,” Halling added. “We will expand our portfolio further towards the end of the year with significant new innovation.”

Neb Gov Ricketts Rallies for RFS

On Friday, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts rallied for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in Blair, Nebraska at Novozymes’ biofuel enzyme facility. Also in attendance was Iowa Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson and Kyle Nixon, Novozymes general manager. According to speakers, should the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final rule that slashes the required volumes of corn ethanol by more than one million gallons move forward, it will threaten thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of investments by ethanol producers in Nebraska and Iowa.

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts speaks about the RFS during a rally held at Novozyme's enzyme facility in Blair, Nebraska. Photo Credit: Novozymes

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts speaks about the RFS during a rally held at Novozyme’s enzyme facility in Blair, Nebraska. Photo Credit: Novozymes.

“Agriculture is Nebraska’s number one industry, and ethanol is one of the key agricultural growth industries that have added billions in revenue and thousands of jobs over the past decade to our state,” said Gov. Ricketts. “These efforts were undertaken in expectation that such efforts would meet the commitment of this nation to renewable fuels established by the Renewable Fuel Standard. Nebraskans have cause for concern because the EPA’s proposal to slash billions of gallons of biofuels from the RFS has the potential to negatively impact the future growth of our state. The RFS is an achievable and ambitious target and must be maintained.”

Today is the last day for public comment on the rule and more than 200,000 comments alone were submitted today by Fuels America. Earlier this year the association released an economic study citing the RFS driving $184 billion in economic activity, 850,000 jobs and $46 billion in wages across the country. This activity, found the report, creates a ripple effect as supplier firms and employees re-spend throughout the economy. The local impact for Nebraska is $11.1 billion and nearly 40,000 jobs. Likewise, the impact for Iowa is $19.3 billion and 73,000 jobs.

Today the U.S. biofuels industry produces 14 billion gallons of ethanol and biodiesel.

According to Nixon, enzymes from Novozyme’s Blair, Nebraska plant allow agricultural products like corn starch and corn stover to be converted into conventional and advanced biofuels. He noted the facility has helped realize two of the Obama Administration’s key goals for renewable energy; creating short-term construction and long-term professional jobs; and helping move the U.S. away from foreign oil and towards homegrown renewable fuel, energizing the economy and increasing domestic security. Continue reading