Companies target first-generation ethanol

By Holly Jessen | July 15, 2010
Posted Aug. 12, 2010

Start-up company Xylogenics Inc. and Lallemand Ethanol Technology recently announced the signing of an exclusive agreement to develop and commercialize yeasts for the grain ethanol industry. First-generation ethanol, including corn, wheat, barley and sorghum plants, is a large market, with room for growth in ethanol output, Mike Neibler, CEO of Xylogenics told EPM."We believe there is scope for innovation and yield and cost improvements," he said.

Xylogenics got a unique start in the yeast world. Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine were looking at yeast for reducing the growth of cancer cells. Eventually, they realized what they were learning about yeast could have an impact on the ethanol industry. "Eight years later they came up with something that we thought would be commercializable," Neibler said, adding that the Indianapolis-based company was formed in 2008.

Xylogenics, with its knowledge in genetically enhanced ethanol-producing yeasts, will work in cooperation with LET to engineer a new class of industrial ethanol yeast strains. The goal will be to increase fermentation yield, reduce fermentation costs and potentially increase fermentation capacity. LET, a U.S. business unit of the Canadian yeast and bacteria producer Lallemand Inc., will be responsible for process development, manufacturing and commercialization of the new yeast. Xylogenics will receive patent license fees and royalty payments, under the terms of the agreement.

"Xylogenics is thrilled to be partnering with Lallemand, a global leader in fermentation technology," Neibler said. "We are confident that our combined strengths will allow us to move quickly to commercialization and make a positive impact on the fuel ethanol industry economics."

LET, which is based in Milwaukee, has been working with Xylogenics on this agreement for some time, said Bill Nankervis, president of Lallemand Specialties Inc. and general manager of LET. "This agreement signals that we are confident that Xylogenics technology offers significant benefits for the fuel ethanol industry," he said.