The Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG) helps members develop and bring to market their innovative biobased and renewable chemical products through insightful policy and regulatory advocacy. BRAG is managed by B&C® Consortia Management, L.L.C., an affiliate of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.


 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On November 29, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that a collaboration between the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) resulted in the successful modification of a microorganism to produce a versatile fermentation intermediate that can be upgraded into valuable biobased fuels and chemicals.  NREL’s cellulosic ethanol fermentation organism (Zymomonas mobilis), is capable of exclusively producing 2,3-butanediol (2,3-BDO), which can be catalytically upgraded to a variety of hydrocarbon fuel precursors and valuable chemical co-products.  Techno-economic modeling was performed to study the potential of producing hydrocarbon fuel precursors and co-products in a cost effective manner.  The first breakthrough occurred with genetic modifications to eliminate the ethanol pathways to ensure that sugar metabolism pathways also produced 2,3-BDO.  ORNL continues to explore modifications to its catalytic upgrading system to achieve further process simplifications and cost savings.


 

 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On November 27, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued an announcement for its second funding opportunity announcement (FOA) for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs for fiscal year (FY) 2018.  The Phase I Release 2 FOA will provide funding for innovations that address multiple research and development programs throughout DOE, including the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).  Phase I grants are six to 12 months in duration with maximum award amounts of $150,000 or $225,000, depending on the research topic.  Successful Phase I projects will compete for Phase II funding in FY 2019 to carry out prototype or processes research and development.  More information on the FOA is available here.

Tags: DOE, SBIR, STTR

 

 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On November 8, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) issued a statement soliciting applications for its Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research Grants Program.  The program aims to support the generation of new information that will assist federal regulatory agencies in making science-based decisions about the effects of introducing genetically engineered (GE) organisms, including microorganisms, into the environment.  Exploratory research that relates specifically to federal regulatory needs is preferred. USDA anticipates approximately $3.5 million in funding will be available for 2018 grants.  Applicants must submit a letter of intent by 5:00 p.m. (EST) on December 21, 2017.  Applications are due by 5:00 p.m. (EST) on February 22, 2018.


 

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

Industrial Biotechnology recently published a special issue to highlight the advances and challenges in algae-based products and applications.  The article, written by B&C® Consortia Management, L.L.C. (BCCM) affiliate Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) Managing Partner, Lynn L. Bergeson; B&C Senior Chemist, Richard E. Engler, Ph.D.; and BCCM Manager, Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D., examines the complex regulatory domain and discusses the significance and implications of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) for industrialized microorganisms, such as algae.  The article titled “TSCA Affects on Algae, Other Novel Biosources, and Bioprocesses” provides an overview of the fundamentals of TSCA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) review of new substances, the impact that chemical identity has on EPA’s regulation of new substances, and available reporting exemptions.  In the article, the authors highlight the need for chemical product innovators “to understand how TSCA, significantly amended in 2016, applies to biomass starting material, including industrial microorganisms (such as algae); intermediates; and commercial products, and build TSCA compliance into business timelines and budgets.”  While the products of industrial microbes have the potential to reduce toxicity, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and dependence on non-renewable resources, companies must comply with TSCA and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to ensure that such products successfully enter the market.


 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On October 25, 2017, bipartisan legislation aimed at leveling the playing field between renewable and fossil fuels was re-introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives.  Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), along with eight bipartisan co-sponsors, introduced the Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act (S. 2005) in the Senate.  Representative Ted Poe (R-TX), along with six co-sponsors, introduced similar legislation (H.R. 4118) in the House.  The legislation would allow investors in a range of clean energy projects, including renewable fuels, access to a corporate structure whose tax advantage is currently available only to investors in fossil fuel-based energy projects.  According to Senator Coons, “[‌u]pdating the tax code in this way will help increase parity and ensure that [clean] energy technologies can permanently benefit from the incentives that traditional energy sources have depended on to build infrastructure for more than 30 years.”  The bills were previously introduced in the Senate and House on June 24, 2015.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On November 7, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued a notice in the Federal Register announcing that it was withdrawing its proposed rule that would have revised the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release of certain genetically engineered (GE) organisms.  The proposed rule, which was issued on January 19, 2017, aimed to “update the regulations in response to advances in genetic engineering and understanding of the plant pest and noxious weed risk posed by [GE] organisms, thereby reducing burden for regulated entities whose organisms pose no plant pest or noxious weed risks.”  After reviewing public comments on the proposed rule, USDA decided to re-engage with stakeholders and explore alternative policy approaches.  More specific comments from USDA and the reasons supporting its decision are set forth in the notice.
 
While it appears that some in industry may welcome the withdrawal, most would agree that all stakeholders should work collaboratively and quickly to develop a new framework to speed the process to market, and to ensure the regulatory landscape is more efficient and clearer than it currently is.  USDA and pertinent others should immediately begin another process to enable the regrouping to begin.


 
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