Metabolix Secures UCLA Engineering ARPA-E Grant For Improving Biofuels Productivity in Camelina
Date Posted: December 6, 2012
Cambridge, MA—Metabolix, Inc. (NASDAQ: MBLX), an innovation-driven bioscience company focused on delivering sustainable solutions for plastics, chemicals and energy, announced Dec. 6 that it has received a subaward under the Advanced Research Projects Agency — Energy (ARPA-E) to work with the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science to redesign carbon fixation pathways to increase the efficiency of capturing energy from sunlight.
This is the third grant awarded to Metabolix in 2012 for leading-edge crop research targeting multi-gene expression and transformation of plants, and builds upon its years of experience in transforming plants for bio-product production.
Funding from these three grants will total nearly $1 million and will run through 2014.
Under the UCLA Engineering ARPA-E grant, Metabolix researchers will work closely with Professor James Liao, the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation professor and chair in the department of chemical and biomolecular engineering and a recent Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award recipient, to engineer alternate biochemical pathways for carbon fixation into the crop plant, camelina.
Metabolix's multi-gene expression technology and its significant prior work in camelina will help increase the number of new traits expressed in each plant, which is expected to produce new pathways to a greater variety of liquid fuels from camelina and other plants.
Specifically, the ARPA-E grant focuses on carbon fixation, which is the key process that plants use to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere into higher energy molecules (such as sugars) using energy from the sun.
Metabolix will work with UCLA Engineering to investigate an alternative biochemical pathway that theoretically could allow a plant to capture twice as much CO2 using the same amount of light, with the end goal of improving the productivity of both food and fuel crops.
"Metabolix brings a unique set of capabilities and experience as well as a proven track record of success in plant science to our ARPA-E project," said Dr. Liao.
"With its proven capability to engineer a variety of crop plants for the production of industrial products, Metabolix will be a valuable partner in our work to increase carbon fixation in plants and enable the production of a greater variety of liquid fuels in camelina and other plants.
"We look forward to working with Metabolix in our quest to generate more cost-effective biofuels."
"We are delighted that another of our project teams has chosen to work with Metabolix to move PETRO's high-performance, dedicated energy crops closer to realization," says ARPA-E Program Director Dr. Jonathan Burbaum.
"If successful, such crops promise to provide a viable, domestic and renewable alternative to imported petroleum."
The UCLA Engineering ARPA-E grant is the third crops science grant awarded to Metabolix in 2012.
In January, the Company initiated work on an ARPA-E-funded project to work with the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst to help increase the natural ability of camelina to produce oils and add the production of energy-dense terpene molecules that can be easily converted into liquid fuels.
In April, Metabolix Oilseeds, a wholly owned subsidiary of Metabolix, was awarded a grant for the development of capacity building for commercial-scale polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB)-producing camelina.
"Driving a growing interest in our crops science program is the interest from brand owners, consumers and government organizations for developing renewable, non-petroleum-based liquid fuels," said Dr. Oliver Peoples, chief scientific officer and vice president, research at Metabolix.
"Metabolix is a pioneer in plant science and we have a deep history working with leading institutions to successfully further the development of technologies to enhance the productivity of crops.
"We look forward to applying our strong capabilities in crop science to the work with UCLA Engineering to improve the carbon fixation pathways of camelina and produce new routes to biofuels."
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