Crop-biorefinery system for low-cost advanced renewable fuel and chemicals

R. Chow, Y. Tian, J. Bragg, T. Mccubbin, B. Niles, T.S. Lee, C. Petzold, A. Oikawa
United States

Keywords: synthetic biology, biorefinery, biomass, fast-growth, high-yields


Sustainable ecosystems and U.S. energy security depend on more efficient fuel and chemical production from renewable sources. Demand for renewable hydrocarbon fuels and chemicals is rapidly growing and is expected to continue rising for several decades. However, current biorefineries face cost competitiveness challenges due to inadequate yield and quality of biomass and lack of robust fermentation hosts and product diversity to maximize income compared to petrochemical counterparts. Fortunately, improved energy feedstock crops for biomass and non-conventional oleaginous yeasts for conversion to desired products have recently emerged as candidates for metabolic engineering and/or synthetic biology approach that can significantly enhance the economics for production of biodiesel, jet fuels, and advanced high-value chemicals. We at AFINGEN and Joint Bioenergy Institute are developing synthetic biology methods to enable host eukaryotic organisms (plants, fungi, and yeast) to improve yield and composition of commercially attractive products. Among a suite of synthetic biology methods, AFINGEN has licensed a patented technology, the Artificial Positive Feedback Loop or “APFL”, from the University of California. The APFL technology offers a robust path to produce target biofuels from cellulosic derived sugars with minimal cis-genetic manipulation and improved genetic stability compared to conventional bio-engineering. The outcome demonstrates a major breakthrough in synthetic biology that could lead to significantly higher yields and more diverse hosts that can be utilized in the proven, industrial-scale processes of fermentation. By multiplying the amplification and/or reduction of target compounds with unprecedented specificity and improved tolerance, engineered fuel crops may allow high-yield of biomass, more cellulose, and less lignin with healthy robust growth. The increased quantity of higher quality feedstocks provides the nutrient substrate for more productive engineered yeasts that produce much higher volumes and much lower production costs of currently scarce or difficult to extract compounds.