STTR Phase I: An Advanced Biomanufacturing Platform Focused on Producing Sustainable Bio-based Commercial Chemicals

Period of Performance: 01/01/2013 - 12/31/2013

$225K

Phase 1 STTR

Recipient Firm

OmegaChea Biorenewables LLC
1140K BRL Building, Bissel Road
Ames, IA 50011
Principal Investigator, Firm POC

Research Institution

Iowa State University
1138 Pearson Hall
Ames, IA 50011
Institution POC

Abstract

This Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I project proposes to develop and commercialize a new scalable manufacturing capability that will produce bio-based chemicals for surfactants, lubricants, and polymers. At the core of this new manufacturing platform is a re-designed microorganism that incorporates novel enzymes that determine the chemical nature of the omega-end of fatty acids. Computational prospecting of genomes by NSF's Engineering Research Center (ERC), CBiRC, has led to the discovery of these enzymes, and CBiRC has developed systems to accurately identify their biocatalytic capabilities in determining the omega-end of fatty acids. The CBiRC team will implement these systems and identify new superior biocatalysts. The company will utilize these discoveries by selecting optimized biocatalysts, and integrate them into a microbial platform for the scalable bio-based manufacture of omega-functionalized fatty acid chemicals. These functionalized fatty acids will display improved performance characteristics in applications such as surfactants, lubricants, and polymers, which are markets that are valued at more than $40B per annum. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project, if successful, will be a new manufacturing platform for producing bio-based chemicals that are currently derived from petroleum-carbon. This proposed project has the potential of impacting the carbon and environmental footprints of the surfactant, lubricant, and polymer industries. The manufacturing platform will utilize biological carbon sources (sugars derived from plants), and, via novel microbial fermentation processes, will biologically transform the carbon to higher value products. This transformation is of significance in the context of company's geographic and intellectual inception. First, the company is based in a Midwestern State (Iowa), which is at the epicenter of this country's bio-based carbon-fixing industry (i.e., agriculture); the technology has the potential to add value to primary agricultural outputs, and therefore support rural development. Second, the company envisions forming industry partnerships in the context of the ERC-Industry collaboration (i.e., CBiRC's Innovation Ecosystem) that incorporates multiple companies along the value chain from agricultural commodity producers to chemical companies that are seeking to change from using non-renewable petroleum-derived carbon to renewable carbon-sources. Therefore, the technology has the potential of being a transformative force in contributing to a sustainable manufacturing base.