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UCI and CODA Genomics collaborate to re-engineer yeast for biofuel production
Date:9/4/2007

Irvine, Calif., Sept. 4, 2007 Scientists from UC Irvine and CODA Genomics are partnering on new research aimed at turning a common strain of yeast used in the production of beer, wine and bread into an efficient producer of ethanol.

Researchers at UCIs Institute for Genomics and Bioinformatics (IGB) are using CODA Genomics patented gene-protein-production algorithms to tweak the genetic structure of a yeast strain called Saccharomyces. It has the potential to efficiently turn switchgrass, hemp, corn, wood and other natural materials into ethanol a clean and environmentally safe fuel that could help meet the nations increasing thirst for green energy.

The $1.67 million collaboration, which began Sept. 1, is funded by CODA Genomics, an Orange County synthetic biology company, and a UC Discovery Grant that provides matching funds for innovative industry-university research partnerships.

Saccharomyces produces ethanol as a byproduct when it ferments sugars found in plant materials. In its natural state, the yeast processes the glucose that grows in these materials, but does not contain the necessary enzymes to process other sugars, such as xylose and arabinose, that are components of biomass. The bio-engineered version of the yeast will produce enzymes that can help it digest these and other sugars with equal ease, maximizing its ethanol production.

Scientists believe the bio-engineered yeast could use 80-90 percent of the sugars in biomass for ethanol production, up from about 20 percent with current technologies.

Ethanol could be an answer to the U.S.s dependence on fossil fuels, said G. Wesley Hatfield, principal investigator on the grant, a UCI professor emeritus and co-founder of CODA Genomics. While there currently are yeast strains that can make ethanol from biomass, the existing process is very expensive and inefficient. Were trying to build a better yeast strain one that can produce more ethanol from t
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Contact: Anna Lynn Spitzer
aspitzer@uci.edu
949-824-3317
University of California - Irvine
Source:Eurekalert

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