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 Lynn L. Bergeson

The Product Stewardship Society is now accepting nominations for officials from member companies to serve on its Board of Directors. The Board establishes the organization’s strategic direction and goals, and monitors progress toward reaching those goals. Nominees must be members in good standing; self-nominations are allowed.

“Our Board members are leaders in a diverse range of business sectors. We are looking for leaders who have a passion for the Society and who wish to work with like-minded professionals to grow the profession and make a difference,” stated Lynn Bergeson, President of the Product Stewardship Society.

Deadline for the nominations is April 15, 2020. More information is available in the full press release.

Tags: PSS, Board

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On February 25, 2020, DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) announced that its scientists have developed a novel technique to closely observe the nanostructure of biomaterials without damaging the sample. Using a nonintrusive soft mechanical nanoablation (sMNA) technique can confirm structural features in starch, which is an important carbohydrate in the production of biofuels. ORNL’s chief scientist for systems biology and biotechnology, Brian Davison, highlighted the importance of plant cell wall structures in the next generation of biofuels, stating that the “study used starch as an example of how this technique can start to access some of these nanomechanical structure materials” that currently cannot be observed. ORNL’s study was published on February 6, 2020. ORNL scientists believe the novel technique can also be applied to nonliving materials and used on synthetic polymers or even three-dimensional-printed materials.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 17, 2020, researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst) announced that one of its laboratories has developed a device using a natural protein to create electricity from moisture in the air. Electrical engineer Jun Yao and microbiologist Derek Lovley have created what they call “Air-Gen,” which consists of an air-powered generator with electrically conductive protein nanowires produced by the microbe Geobacter. The Air-gen connects electrodes to the protein nanowires in such a way that electrical current is generated from the water vapor naturally present in the atmosphere. According to Yao, the device generates clean energy 24/7. What Yao and Lovley describe as a low cost, non-polluting, and renewable device, can generate energy even in areas with extremely low humidity, such as the Sahara Desert. Although the current generation of Air-gen devices are only able to power small electronics, both scientists state that the ultimate goal is to develop large-scale systems that will highly contribute to sustainable energy production.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

Pennsylvania State University’s (Penn State) Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences’ Center of Excellence in Industrial Biotechnology (CoEIB) is now offering a new round of IMPACT Seed Grants to support interdisciplinary research, curricular development, or educational activities in the broad area of industrial biotechnology. These areas include but are not limited to: biopharmaceutical manufacturing, food biotechnology, and production of biobased chemicals. According to Penn State’s announcement, project proposals of up to $25,000 per project will be available. Favorable consideration will be given to grant proposals that: (1) leverage the capabilities in the CSL Behring Fermentation Facility; (2) provide matching funds to support new industry-funded collaborations; and (3) support graduate/undergraduate students in industrial biotechnology research or educational activities. The CSL Behring Fermentation Facility is a biotechnology pilot plant capable of research- and pilot-scale production of microbial cells, recombinant proteins, and other microbial products over a wide range of controlled conditions. Proposals should be submitted to CoEIB on or prior to 5:00 p.m. (EST) on February 7, 2020.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On January 1, 2020, U.S. President Donald Trump released a statement recognizing the beginning of National Biotechnology Month and the country’s “enormous potential” of biotechnology to improve lives in the United States and around the globe. Highlighting the benefits of biotechnology in different sectors, President Trump states that for every one job in biotechnology, nearly two other jobs are created in various sectors in the rural United States. In his statement, the President assures Americans that his policies to encourage innovation and drive job growth will continue:

As we mark the start of National Biotechnology Month and a new decade of American ingenuity, we recognize the importance of American leadership in maintaining science- and risk-based review and regulation of biotechnology products, promoting and safeguarding critical biotechnology infrastructure and data, and preparing the next generation of biotechnology scientists, engineers, and innovators. Together, we can ensure this booming, innovative industry continues to foster economic growth and American innovation.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

First published last week, on November 25, 2019, the article titled “Consolidated Production of Coniferol and Other High-Value Aromatic Alcohols Directly from Lignocellulosic Biomass” has gained media attention across the globe. Given the finite geological oil reserves, the competition to identify alternative biobased and biorefinery processes continues to grow. According to the article, the aim in identifying such products is not only to find alternatives, but most importantly to “overcome significant costs and productivity barriers.” In the aforementioned article, published in the Green Chemistry Journal, scientists write about a novel technique using the biocatalytic production of coniferol (a versatile chemical block) directly from lignocellulosic biomass. The process to do so involves a biocatalytic treatment of lignocellulose, which releases and converts ferulic acid with feruloyl esterase (XynZ), carboxylic acid reductase (CAR), and aldo-keto reductase (AKR). This catalytic reaction achieves the equivalent release of ferulic acid from lignocellulose compared to alkaline hydrolysis, also displaying efficient conversion of ferulic acid to coniferol. Consolidating a biodegradation-biotransformation strategy for the production of high value fine chemicals from waste plant biomass, this novel process offers a potential to minimize environmental waste and add value to agro-industrial residues. A number of grants, including from the São Paulo Research Foundation and David Phillips Fellowship, supported the study outlined in the journal article. Grants of these types continue to arise as the need to address resource efficiency and, therefore, biobased chemical production has become the focus of various government agencies in many countries. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for example, often provides scientist from all backgrounds similar opportunities.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On November 15, 2019, Sarah Yim, M.D., acting director of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Therapeutic Biologics and Biosimilars in FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, released a statement on FDA’s continued progress facilitating competition in the biologic marketplace with approval of its 25th biosimilar project. In her statement, Dr. Yim highlights FDA’s approval of one of nine new biosimilar products approved in 2019. Bringing the overall total of biosimilar approvals to 25, Dr. Yim states: “I’m pleased to see this progress and am confident that the market for these therapies will continue to grow.” Approved under FDA’s Biosimilar Product Development Program, the 25th biosimilar announced is one of 38 products that have been enrolled in the program. The program’s goal is to discuss development of proposed biosimilar products or interchangeable products, laying the foundation for ongoing competition in the marketplace.

Typically more complex than other drugs and developed through advanced science, biological products, commonly referred to as biologics, are generally made from natural or living sources, such as animal and plant cells, and microorganisms such as bacteria or yeast. Biologics and biosimilar products are highly similar to, and have no clinically meaningful differences from, existing FDA-approved biologic products called reference products. As part of FDA’s efforts to support these products, Dr. Yim also highlighted FDA’s work under the Biosimilars Action Plan. The work under this plan includes efforts to develop and implement new biosimilar-specific review templates and progress toward the development and validation of pharmacodynamic biomarkers tailored to biosimilar development. Part of these efforts involves FDA’s provision of scientific and regulatory clarity for the biosimilar development community, combined with communication and outreach education. Dr. Yim concludes: “The promise of biosimilar and interchangeable biological products in providing increased access to important therapies is great, and the FDA will continue to do all that we can to facilitate competition in this area.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 30, 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) announced open meetings of the Biomass Research and Development (R&D) Technical Advisory Committee. The first meeting is scheduled for November 19, 2019, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (EST), and the second meeting will take place on November 20, 2019, from 8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (EST) in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the committee is to advise the Secretaries of Energy and Agriculture with respect to the Biomass Initiative. The committee also evaluates and makes recommendations in writing to the Biomass R&D Board. The meetings will address the advice and guidance the committee will promote for R&D leading to the production of biobased fuels and biobased products. The meetings’ tentative agenda includes updates on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Biomass R&D activities, presentations from government and industry that provide insights on the intersection of forest health and bioenergy growth, and updates on DOE Biomass R&D activities. Written and oral statements will be accepted. The meeting summary will be available for public review here.

Tags: DOE, EERE, Biomass

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 25, 2019, Iowa State University’s (ISU) Vice President for Research, Dan Kirkpatrick, announced that Sundeep Vani, Ph.D., has joined the team as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for Biobased Products, a newly created role. Announced in an ISU press release, Dr. Vani’s role will be to serve as a conduit between research and industry. Dr. Vani will work closely with the Biobased Product platform leader, Brent Shanks, his team, and the Iowa Innovation Corporation (IIC) CEO. Identifying promising emerging technologies and facilitating their development into market scale will also be at the top of Dr. Vani’s list of priorities. Dr. Vani stated that he is “excited to join Iowa State in this mission to grow Iowa’s economy through the state’s overall Biosciences initiative.” His addition to the team is partially attributed to Iowa’s legislature in July 2019 granting the university $825,000 in fiscal year 2020.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On October 23, 2019, the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) announced a partnership with innovation platform Plug and Play to develop an accelerator program focused on the plastics value chain to identify start-ups with innovative ideas addressing plastic waste. Named the End Plastic Waste Innovation Platform (EPWIP), this initiative will focus on solutions to lower the impact of plastic waste in the environment. Focus areas include but are not limited to collecting, managing, and sorting plastic waste; recycling and processing technologies; and creating value from post-recycled plastics. Two programs will be run throughout the calendar year in Silicon Valley, Paris, and Singapore. Plug and Play will source specific start-ups working on solutions in selected focus areas. Running for 12 weeks, the programs will accept ten start-ups each, under which Plug and Play will invest in 20 selected start-ups per year. Engaging start-ups to AEPW members throughout the entire plastics value chain on infrastructure, education and engagement, innovation, and cleanup efforts, the programs will serve as a bridge between start-ups and access to new markets through AEPW members. Applications are now open for the first program, which will run from February through May 2020.


 
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