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David Glass EUEC Presentation 02 02 10


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This is a presentation I made on February 2, 2010 at the EUEC 2010 conference in Phoenix. The talk included an overview of the approaches being pursued to use biotechnology to improve microorganisms, …

This is a presentation I made on February 2, 2010 at the EUEC 2010 conference in Phoenix. The talk included an overview of the approaches being pursued to use biotechnology to improve microorganisms, algae and plants for biofuel production and the companies pursuing these strategies, and discussion of the impact of biotech regulations on these projects and the prospects for use of engineered organisms in commercial biofuel production. You can find more detailed information on the topics discussed in this talk on my blog at

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  • 1. Prospects for the Commercial Use of Genetic Engineering in Biofuel Production
    David J. Glass, Ph.D.
    D. Glass Associates, Inc.
    Presented at EUEC 2010, Phoenix, AZ
    February 2, 2010
  • 2. Overview: Prospects for Use of Advanced Biotechnology for Biofuel Production
    Summary of technology strategies.
    Companies applying advanced biotechnology to biofuels.
    Impact of biotechnology regulations on biofuels.
    Commercialization status and prospects.
  • 3. Technology Strategies
  • 4. Biotechnologies Applicable to Biofuels
    Classical microbial mutation and selection
    Plant breeding
    Recombinant DNA
    Directed evolution
    DNA shuffling
    Metabolic engineering
    Synthetic biology
  • 5. Genetic Engineering Strategies: Microorganisms
    • Overexpress desired enzymes (e.g. to improve ability to process or degrade cellulosic feedstocks).
    • 6. Engineer microorganisms to manufacture novel or improved industrial enzymes.
    • 7. Create novel or synthetic microorganisms or new metabolic pathways to enable production of renewable fuels.
  • Genetic Engineering Strategies: Algae
    Enhance algal growth rate.
    Enhance or alter lipid biosynthesis.
    Enhance photosynthesis.
    Enable use of alternate food sources.
    Enable secretion of lipids to aid oil/water separation.
  • 8. Genetic Engineering Strategies: Plants
    Overexpress cell-wall hydrolysis enzymes.
    Cellulases, Hemicellulases, Ligninases.
    Increase plant biomass, cellulosic biomass.
    Cellulose biosynthetic enzymes.
    Lignin modification to reduce need for pretreatment.
    Down-regulate lignin biosynthesis.
    Regulated gene expression, so traits are active only when needed.
  • 9. Companies applying advanced biotechnology to biofuels
  • 10. Companies Using or Developing Modified Microorganisms: Ethanol
    BioEnergy International
    DuPont Danisco
    Glycos Biotechnologies
    GreenTech America
    Joule Biotechnologies
    Microbiogen (non-GMO)
    TMO Renewables
    Note: Several of these companies are also developing other fuels.
  • 11. Companies Using or Developing Modified Microorganisms: Biodiesel, Other Fuels
    Biodiesel, petroleum fuels
    Amyris Biotechnologies
    Glycos Biotechnologies
    Joule Biotechnologies
    Synthetic Genomics
    Butanol, Isobutanol
    Bioenergy International
    Butamax (DuPont/BP)
    Cobalt Biofuels
    Green Biologics, Ltd.
    METabolic Explorer
    TetraVitae Bioscience
  • 12. Companies Using Newer Microbial Technologies
    Amyris Biotechnologies: synthetic biology
    Codexis: DNA shuffling
    Glycos Biotechnologies: metabolic engineering
    Joule Biotechnologies: synthetic biology
    LS9: synthetic biology
    Synthetic Genomics: synthetic biology
    TMO Renewables: thermophilic microorganisms
    Verdezyne: synthetic biology, metabolic engineering
  • 13. Companies Manufacturing Enzymes for Biofuels using Modified Organisms
    AB Enzymes
    Royal DSM N.V.
    Dyadic International
    Iogen Corporation
    Novozymes A/S
    Infinite Enzymes (transgenic plants)
    Medicago (transient expression)
    Syngenta (transgenic plants)
  • 14. Companies Reported to be Developing Genetically Modified Algae for Biofuels
    Algenol Biofuels
    Aurora Biofuels
    Global Green Solutions
    Sapphire Energy
    Synthetic Genomics
    Targeted Growth
    Note: companies included based on press, Internet reports: use of GMOs not necessarily confirmed on company websites. Not all these companies are necessarily using genetic engineering.
  • 15. Companies Developing Transgenic Plants for Biofuels
    Conventional Feedstocks
    Agrivida: corn
    ArborGen: purpose-growntrees
    Edenspace Systems: corn
    Targeted Growth: corn
    Note: some of these companiesare also developing newer feedstocks.
  • 16. Companies Developing Transgenic Plants for Biofuels
    Newer Feedstocks
    Agragen: Camelina
    Agrisoma: BrassicaandJatropha
    Agrivida: switchgrass, sugarcane, sorghum, others
    Ceres: non-food grasses
    Edenspace Systems: switchgrass
    Evogene: canola, soybean, others
  • 17. Companies Developing Transgenic Plants for Biofuels
    Newer Feedstocks
    Farmacule BioIndustries: sugarcane, tobacco
    Mendel Biotechnology: grasses, others
    Metabolix: switchgrass, oil crops, others
    SG Biofuels: Jatropha
    Targeted Growth: Camelina, canola, others
  • 18. Impact of Biotechnology Regulations on Biofuels
  • 19. Overview of U.S. Regulation of Environmental Biotechnology
    Environmental Protection Agency
    Microbial pesticides.
    Plant pesticides (e.g. transgenic plants).
    Engineered microorganisms not regulated by other agencies (e.g. nitrogen fixation, bioremediation, industrial applications).
    U.S. Department of Agriculture
    Transgenic plants, including plants producing industrial or pharmaceutical products.
    Transgenic animals.
  • 20. EPA Regulation of Engineered Microorganisms
    EPA regulations under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) cover industrial uses of microorganisms not regulated by other agencies.
    Applies to “intergeneric” organisms for industrial enzyme production, biotreatment, other bioprocessing uses.
    Applicability to algae not certain.
    Submit Microbial Commercial Activity Notice (MCAN) with data package 90 days before starting commercial use.
    Most research and pilot projects are not regulated.
    Some exemptions available for commercial use.
  • 21. USDA Regulation of Transgenic Plants
    Regulations issued in 1987 cover outdoor uses of most transgenic plants.
    Rules have been continually relaxed, most agricultural uses require only agency notification.
    Starting in 2003, permits now required for industrial, pharmaceutical, phytoremediation applications.
    Permit applications: must be submitted 120 days in advance of proposed field use.
    Commercialization via “delisting” petition process.
    USDA currently considering revisions to regulations.
  • 22. Regulation of Engineered Algae
    Jurisdiction of EPA, USDA under biotech regulations unclear.
    Proposed use of engineered algae in pharmaceutical production in Hawaii in 2005 generated controversy, no federal agency claimed jurisdiction: state law and state courts ultimately determined outcome.
    2008 USDA opinion letter to Coastal BioMarine stated no USDA oversight over engineered algal strain if no “plant pest” sequences, and no oversight for smaller-scale use in contained reactors.
    Reactor design may be critical in determining regulatory status.
  • 23. Impact of Biotechnology Regulations
    Would not necessarily affect all biofuel organisms, exemptions may be available.
    For those projects affected, some additional activities and expense may be required.
    Straightforward path to commercial approval, with many prior successes in agricultural, industrial biotechnology.
    The regulatory process can be successfully managed.
  • 24. Commercialization Status and Prospects
  • 25. Commercial Status of Modified Microorganisms in Biofuels
    Verenium: only MCAN reviewed by EPA under TSCA for modified ethanol production strain.
    Demonstration or pilot plants in operation or under construction:
    Ethanol production: BioEnergy, DuPont Danisco, Iogen, Mascoma, Qteros, Verenium.
    Gevo: demonstration butanol plant.
    Amyris: pilot plant for petroleum-equivalent fuels.
    Pilot or commercial algae plants: Algenol, Aurora, Sapphire, Solazyme, Solix (not necessarily using engineered algae).
  • 26. Field Uses of Transgenic Plants for Biofuels
    Syngenta: Approval for commercial use of amylase-expressing corn in several countries, approval pending in U.S. since 2005.
    Agrisoma: field trials in Canada of engineered Brassica and soybean, improved in oil quality, content and seed size for biodiesel use, 2009.
    Infinite Enzymes, Edenspace, Targeted Growth, ArborGen: field trials in the U.S. of various species, including tobacco, corn, Eucalyptus, expressing biodegradative enzymes, 2006-09.
  • 27. Notable Business Deals Involving Advanced Biotechnology for Biofuels
    BP/Martek: Conversion of sugars to biodiesel.
    BP/Verenium: Cellulosic biofuel development.
    Chevron/Solazyme: Biodiesel production from algae.
    Dow Chemical/Algenol: Pilot plant for algal production of ethanol.
    ExxonMobil/Synthetic Genomics: Synthetic algal strains for biofuel production.
    Royal Dutch Shell/Codexis: Novel methods for conversion of non-food biomass to biofuels.
    Royal Dutch Shell/HR Petroleum: marine algae for biofuels.
  • 28. Prospects for the Future: Commercialization Challenges
    Use of modified organisms will face the same challenges as other biofuel applications:
    Scale-up to commercial scale.
    Process economics.
    Competition from other biological or physical methods of biofuel manufacture.
    Feedstock availability and cost; conflict with food use of crops
    Availability of sufficient land to grow feedstocks or to build reactors.
  • 29. Prospects for the Future: Commercialization Challenges
    But use of modified organisms will also face unique challenges:
    Technical hurdles to accomplish performance goals.
    Recovering the high R&D costs of advanced biotech.
    Government policies, including biotechnology regulation, especially outside the U.S.
    Public acceptance of biotechnology solutions.
  • 30. Prospects for the Future: Commercialization Strategies
    Integration of biological processes with other downstream process improvements.
    Augment energy production by co-production of value-added end-products: specialty chemicals, bioplastics.
    Entry of tree, plant genetics companies into biofuels.
    Carbon capture: design systems to capture CO2 streams for use as biofuel feedstock.
    Novel feedstocks: use of cellulosic waste, novel nonfood crop species as biofuel feedstocks.
  • 31. Thank you very much
    David J. Glass, Ph.D.
    D. Glass Associates, Inc.
    124 Bird Street
    Needham, MA 02492
    Phone 617-653-9945
    More detailed information on the subjects presented in this talk can be found at my blog: