Enzyme technology for cheaper bio-fuel developed by Indian scientists gets US patent

TV Jayan New Delhi | Updated on October 02, 2019

The process helps produce cheaper biofuel from agri waste

A process to produce a cocktail of enzymes that enhances the production of biofuels from agricultural waste developed by scientists in a New Delhi lab has received a patent from the US Patent and Trademark Office.

The discovery by Syed Shams Yazdani, a microbial engineering researcher at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) in New Delhi, is likely to provide a better alternative for making commercial cellulase enzyme that can produce ethanol for second generation (G2) biofuel, the lab said in a release on Monday.

Syed Shams Yazdani, A microbial engineering researcher at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB)


While screening vast microbial resources available in nature, the Microbial Engineering Group led by Yazdani at ICGEB stumbled upon a cocktail of enzymes that can break down the agricultural biomass into simple fermentable sugar with great efficiency. The simple sugars released by the action of these enzymes can further be fermented to ethanol to produce 2G biofuel or any other biochemicals.

The work is significant because it can produce higher quantities of 2G ethanol from agricultural waste materials including rice and wheat straws, whose burning deteriorates the air quality in the national capital and other parts of Northern India. Estimates show that India produces around 500 million tonnes of agricultural waste annually.

To do this, the ICGEB scientists disrupted a control mechanism found in the fungus penicillium funiculosum (PF) that regulates its metabolic activity. Disrupting this mechanism called carbon catabolite repression helped the scientists to increase the production of enzymes that are involved in converting cellulose into sugars and, thus increased the production of biofuels. The scientists published this work for the first time in a reputed journal last year.

Yasdani argued that the newly-engineered fungus could be a strong alternative in the industrial enzyme repertoire used for biofuel production. More importantly, it can use any type agricultural waste as feedstock, he observed.

Currently, there is very limited availability of commercial cellulase enzyme preparation in the market for 2G ethanol and this is often stated as the major reason for the higher cost of 2G ethanol. This discovery is likely to provide a better alternative to the available option in the market.

A detailed genomics, proteomics and biochemical characterisation by the scientists showed the superiority of cellulases produced by this patented fungal platform compared to the existing ones.

Published on October 01, 2019

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