By Kathleen M. Roberts
On July 20, 2017, USDA released its technology transfer report for fiscal year 2016. The report outlines the public release of information, tools, and solutions and the adoption and enhancement of research outcomes by collaborative partners and formal Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA) that occurred in 2016.
The report highlights several research initiatives by ARS scientists focused on supporting the bioeconomy, including:
- Development of a new yeast strain with a unique cellulolytic enzyme that efficiently breaks down biofeedstock, shows resistance to inhibitory compounds, and eliminates the need to add other enzymes to the production process;
- Engineering a yeast strain from a Brazilian ethanol plant to convert plant xylose to ethanol and then identifying a strain with excellent performance;
- dentification of a strain of yeast capable of converting inulin, a major polysaccharide derived from coffee processing waste, into cellulosic ethanol;
- Development of genetic methods to control the conversion of agricultural sugars to compounds called liamocins using yeast; and
- Studying the use of lytic enzymes as an alternative to antibiotics for preventing and controlling bacterial contamination of fuel ethanol fermentations during biorefining.
The full report, titled “Fiscal Year 2016 Annual Report on Technology Transfer” is available on USDA’s website
Scientists, executives, and investors gathered in Montreal, Canada on Tuesday evening for a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion on current issues facing bioeconomy leaders and innovators. The reception, hosted by Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) and Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox P.L.L.C., included a brief question and answer (Q&A) session with Christine Lhulier, Corporate Counsel for DuPont Industrial Biosciences, Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., Senior Chemist with B&C, and Jeremiah B. Frueauf, Director in the Biotechnology/Chemical Group at Stern Kessler. The panel discussed the variety of the incentives and challenges related to growing the bioeconomy, and fielded questions from many of the attendees.
When asked what industries might be affected by the bioeconomy in 2040, Ms. Lhulier stated that she could not name an industry that would not be impacted by renewable resources in the future. In response to the question “what should be the key driver in growing the bioeconomy?,” the panelists highlighted the need for clear regulatory policies that ensure parity for the commercialization of biobased and petroleum-based products, while recognizing the role that industry and academic institutions play in driving innovation. It was also noted that global alignment on biobased policies and procedures, and the development of feedstock-agnostic technologies, would help to accelerate the growth of the bioeconomy.
After a guest commented on the impact the negative public perception of biotechnology has on innovation, Dr. Engler pointed out the public’s poor understanding of biotechnology, its safety, and the extent to which it is utilized in the marketplace already. Another attendee suggested that the biobased industry consider playing a role in informing the public of the benefits of biobased processes. At the conclusion of the Q&A portion of the evening, many guests stayed to continue the conversation with the panelists and attendees.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) is hosting its tenth annual Bioeconomy 2017: Domestic Resources for a Vibrant Future conference on July 11-12, 2017, in Arlington, Virginia. As in years past, the conference will bring together government agency officials, members of Congress, industry leaders, national laboratory scientists, and academic researchers focused on moving the American bioeconomy forward. Discussion will focus on:
- Innovative technologies for the emerging bioeconomy;
- The economic opportunities of reliable American feedstock;
- New and growing markets for the bioeconomy;
- Bioenergy as part of the modern transportation future; and
- Leveraging the bioeconomy to create new jobs and address global challenges.
Registration is available online.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On May 2, 2017, the Maine Senate approved a bill to support Maine’s emerging biobased products industry. An Act to Improve the Ability of Maine Companies to Manufacture and Market Bioplastics (LD 656) would provide the Maine Technology Institute with a $1.5 million grant to provide competitive grants for the development, production, and marketing of bioplastics. The bill was introduced by Senator Jim Dill (D-Old Town) and endorsed by Senator Dana Dow (R-Waldoboro), Senator Tom Saviello (R-Wilton), and 17 Democratic Senators. Following approval by the Senate, the bill will be introduced to the Maine House of Representatives for an initial vote.
On September 7, 2016, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) released the report "Advancing the Biobased Economy: Renewable Chemical Biorefinery Commercialization, Progress, and Market Opportunities, 2016 and Beyond." This report documents substantial growth in the renewable chemical industry, and covers domestic policies impacting renewable chemical commercialization. Policy drivers that are explored include the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the 2014 Farm Bill, draft legislation, state and federal tax incentives, and the Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act (MLP). The report also reviews currently operating biorefineries to identify biotechnology solutions beyond biofuels currently undergoing commercial development.
On July 29, 2016, the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Develop Administration (EDA) announced $4.4 million in grants to diversify and grow Maine's economy. This funding is intended to provide immediate assistance to rural communities that have been impacted by recent mill closures, focusing specifically on the forest sector of the economy. Bio-Based Maine, in partnership with the University of Maine, will receive $519,930 of the funding for a $856,549 project to develop a road map to advance biobased manufacturing in Maine. This project, including the cost analysis, technology assessment, and market research, is anticipated to result in one or more mills producing cellulosic sugars, creating at least 195 jobs. EDA announced several other grants from other federal partners to support Maine's economy as well, including a $3.3 million U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) biobased jet fuel grant, and technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
On July 25, 2016, the the Honorable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development and the Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario announced a $12 million investment in Bioindustrial Innovation Canada. The Centre for the Commercialization of Sustainable Chemistry Innovations will be supported through the funding, and will help businesses quickly bring biobased products from final testing stages to the commercial market. This funding will specifically benefit the Sarnia-Lambton region, and create 478 full-time equivalent jobs as well as 250 new industrial collaborations in an effort to transition the region from a petrobased economy to a biobased economy.