Mascoma Notes Cellulosic Biofuel Breakthrough

Mascoma Corporation recently announced that the company has made major research advances in consolidated bioprocessing, or CBP, a low-cost processing strategy for production of biofuels from cellulosic biomass.

CBP avoids the need for the costly production of cellulase enzymes by using engineered microorganisms that produce cellulases and ethanol at high yield in a single step. The company's chief technology officer, Mike Ladisch, Ph.D., presented these research advances at the 31st Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals in San Francisco, including:

  • Thermophilic bacteria: Production of nearly 6 percent wt/vol ethanol by an engineered thermophilie, an increase of 60 percent over what was reported just a year ago; targeted metabolic engineering of a cellulose-fermenting thermophile, Clostridium thermocellum, leading to a reduced production of unwanted organic acid byproducts; and selected strains of C. thermocellum that can rapidly consume cellulose with high conversion and no added cellulase, and grow on cellulose in the presence of commercial levels of ethanol.
  • Recombinant, cellulolytic yeast: 3,000-fold increase in cellulase expression; a significant 2.5-fold reduction in the added cellulase required for conversion of pretreated hardwood to ethanol; and complete elimination of added cellulase for conversion of waste paper sludge to ethanol.

"These advances enable the reduction in operating and capital costs required for cost-effective commercial production of ethanol, bringing Mascoma substantially closer to commercialization," said Jim Flatt, executive vice president of Research, Development and Operations.