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Verenium Explores Bacterial Genes Inside Termite Guts to Understand How Wood is Broken Down and Converted to Energy

- Study findings published in November 22 issue of Nature - - Company partners with CalTech and DoE for first system-wide gene-analysis

of microbial community focused on plant lignocellulose degradation -

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Nov. 21 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Verenium Corporation (Nasdaq: VRNM), a leading developer of technologies for cellulosic ethanol production and a pioneer in the development of high-performance specialty enzymes, today announced the results of a study designed to sequence and analyze the genes found in microbes populating the hindgut of a Costa Rican termite.

The goal of the study, conducted by a consortium of scientific partners including Verenium, California Institute of Technology (CalTech) and the U.S. Department of Energy's (DoE) Joint Genome Institute (JGI), was to better understand how termites break down cellulose and xylan into component sugars. Such an understanding may reveal better ways of engineering the manufacture of next-generation biofuels.

Although the primary function of the microflora in the termite's hindgut is to degrade cellulosic material, the number and range of novel bacterial genes that scientists found was unexpected and intriguing.

"We were all surprised by the enormous diversity that was revealed, and are excited by the possibilities for future research into the role each gene and enzyme might play in degrading the structural polysaccharides of plants," said Geoff Hazlewood, Ph.D., Verenium's Senior Vice President of Research. "These are important insights into nature's mechanisms that may provide keys to unlocking more effective, industrial methods for converting cellulose to ethanol."

The study findings are being reported in the November 22 issue of the journal Nature, the international journal of science, Volume 450, issue 7169, pp. 560-565.

About the Study

The work was funded through DoE's Community Sequencing program. The principal investigator was Dr. Jared Leadbetter, Associate Professor of Environmental Microbiology at CalTech. Other partners in the research included JGI, Verenium and INBio, the National Biodiversity Institute of Costa Rica. Together, the team sequenced and analyzed more than 80,000 genes encoded by many of the termites' hindgut bacteria species, including about 1,000 cellulase/xylanase genes.

In partnership with INBio, Verenium created an environmental library of DNA collected from the wood-feeding "higher" termite species, Nasutitermes, found in the rainforest of Costa Rica. The DNA was then sent to JGI for sequencing.

"The degradation of wood components, such as cellulose and xylan, requires a battery of enzymes, and termites are extremely successful in breaking down wood, so they're a rich potential source of biochemical catalysts for converting wood into simple sugars and therefore biofuels," Dr. Hazlewood said.

"Prior to this study, only one gene had been connected to the termite's rare ability to digest and nourish itself with wood, a substance that is energy rich but difficult to break down," Dr. Leadbetter noted. "The scientific community long suspected that the bacterial species found in a 'higher' termites' hindgut might be involved in this process and results of this study from the gut community of the Nasutitermes termite demonstrated that these suspicions are correct."

Based on these results, Verenium plans to utilize its advanced gene technologies and high-throughput screening capabilities to evaluate the activity of novel cellulases and hemicellulases encoded in this large collection of novel genes in order to attempt to identify enzyme combinations that can be exploited for converting biomass feedstocks into biofuels.

About Nature Publishing Group

Nature Publishing Group (NPG) is a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd, dedicated to serving the academic, professional scientific and medical communities. NPG's flagship title, Nature, was first published in 1869. Other publications include Nature research journals, Nature Reviews, Nature Clinical Practice and a range of prestigious academic journals including society-owned publications. NPG also provides news content through Scientific career information and free job postings are offered on Naturejobs.

NPG is a global company with headquarters in London and offices in New York, San Francisco, Washington DC, Boston, Tokyo, Paris, Munich, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Delhi, Mexico City and Basingstoke. For more information, please go to

About Verenium

Verenium Corporation is a leader in the development and commercialization of cellulosic ethanol, an environmentally-friendly and renewable transportation fuel, as well as high-performance specialty enzymes for applications within the biofuels, industrial, and health and nutrition markets. The Company possesses integrated, end-to-end capabilities in pre-treatment, novel enzyme development, fermentation, engineering, and project development and is moving rapidly to commercialize its proprietary technology for the production of ethanol from a wide array of feedstocks, including sugarcane bagasse, dedicated energy crops, agricultural waste, and wood products. In addition to the vast potential for biofuels, a multitude of large-scale industrial opportunities exist for the Company for products derived from the production of low-cost, biomass-derived sugars.

Verenium's Specialty Enzyme business harnesses the power of enzymes to create a broad range of specialty products to meet high-value commercial needs. Verenium's world class R&D organization is renowned for its capabilities in the rapid screening, identification, and expression of enzymes -- proteins that act as the catalysts of biochemical reactions.

Verenium operates one of the nation's first cellulosic ethanol pilot plants, an R&D facility, in Jennings, Louisiana and expects to achieve mechanical completion of a 1.4 million gallon-per-year, demonstration-scale facility to produce cellulosic ethanol by the end of the first quarter of 2008. In addition, the Company's process technology has been licensed by Tokyo-based Marubeni Corp. and Tsukishima Kikai Co., Ltd. and has been incorporated into BioEthanol Japan's 1.4 million liter-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant in Osaka, Japan -- the world's first commercial-scale plant to produce cellulosic ethanol from wood construction waste. For more information on Verenium, visit

Forward Looking Statements

Statements in this press release that are not strictly historical are "forward-looking" and involve a high degree of risk and uncertainty. These include statements related to potential benefits to be obtained from studying termite genes, including as such studies may produce insights and methods for more effective production of cellulosic ethanol and statements related to Verenium's operations, capabilities, commercialization activities, target markets and cellulosic ethanol facilities, all of which are prospective. Such statements are only predictions, and actual events or results may differ materially from those projected in such forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause or contribute to the differences include, but are not limited to, risks associated with Verenium's new and uncertain technologies, risks associated with Verenium's dependence on patents and proprietary rights, risks associated with Verenium's protection and enforcement of its patents and proprietary rights, technological, regulatory, competitive and other risks related to development, production, and commercialization of cellulosic ethanol and other biofuels and the commercial prospects of those industries, Verenium's dependence on existing collaboration, manufacturing, and/or license agreements, and its ability to achieve milestones under existing and future collaboration agreements, the ability of Verenium and its partners to commercialize products (including by obtaining any required regulatory approvals) using Verenium's technologies and timing for launching any commercialized products, the ability of Verenium and its collaborators to market and sell any products that it or they commercialize, the development or availability of competitive products or technologies, the future ability of Verenium to enter into and/or maintain collaboration and joint venture agreements and licenses, changes in the U.S. or global energy markets and risks and other uncertainties more fully described in the Company's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including, but not limited to, the Company's quarterly report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended September 30, 2007. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date hereof. The Company expressly disclaims any intent or obligation to update these forward looking statements.


Kelly Lindenboom

Vice President, Corporate Communications


Wendy Kelley

IR Specialist


SOURCE Verenium Corporation
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