• The agreement will help to speed-up the microbial production of oleochemicals from sustainable feedstocks.

Neol Bio (Granada, Spain) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, CO, U.S.A. have signed a partnership agreement for the development of microorganisms able to produce fatty alcohols from lignocellulosic sugars.

“We are very happy to start this collaboration with NREL” said Dr. José L. Adrio, Chief Scientific Officer at Neol Bio. “This agreement will allow us to test the performance of our oleaginous yeast strains with different feedstocks, as well as to improve their capabilities to develop more efficient processes.”

This collaboration is geared towards meeting DOE’s goal of achieving cost-competitive liquid transportation fuels derived from renewable lignocellulosic biomass.  Over the last couple of years, NREL has been working with a species of yeast called Rhodosporidium toruloides, which is an oleaginous yeast (meaning that it accumulates a large percentage of its cell mass as lipids, or triglycerides in this case). Triglycerides can be upgraded to fuels with diesel-like properties. However, these lipids are difficult to extract from inside the cells making the process prohibitively expensive.

“Neol Bio has engineered a yeast to produce fatty alcohols which are secreted from the cell thus potentially making the extraction much simpler and cost effective,” said NREL Senior Scientist Jeffrey Linger. “They have provided their strains to NREL for us to analyze fatty alcohol productivity on our lignocellulosic hydrolysates as the foundation for a potentially larger collaboration.”

Preliminary tests of replicating Neol Bio’s published results on rich growth media are underway. Following the successful completion of these experiments, NREL will move into the next phase of fermentations using pretreated and enzymatically hydrolyzed corn stover as a sole carbon source for the organism.  These sets of fermentations will establish the baseline fatty alcohol production metrics from NREL’s standard cellulosic feedstock, and demonstrate the potential for large- scale deployment of this technology.