Overall market growth in enzymes through 2010 will be
6.9% annually. Right now, the enzyme market is focused on production of ethanol
fuels from corn and other biomass, which is strongly encouraged by the US
government. Break down starch
There are two enzyme markets for
ethanol, says Jack Huttner, vice president of biorefinery business at major
enzyme producer Genencor International, a unit of Denmark's Danisco. The first,
he says, is an existing (and booming) worldwide market for enzymes that break
down starch from corn and other crops into simple sugars that can be fermented
into ethanol. Still in the development pipeline, he adds, are enzymes that will
be needed to make ethanol from cellulosic biomass such as corn stalks, prairie
grass and wood chips. This cellulose-to-ethanol industry "doesn't yet exist,"
says Huttner. But the advanced enzymes required for this application, he adds,
are "one of the most exciting future markets."Finding the right
Genencor is working on commercial development of enzymes that will
be suitable for future cellulosic biofuels production. Similar projects are
cuurently carried out by other big players in enzymes, including Syngenta,
Diversa, DuPont, Novozymes, and Codexis.
Syngenta hopes to make the
necessary enzymes for cellulose-to-biofuels in green plants. Steve Eury, a
Syngenta executive, says the goal is to transplant naturally occurring genes for
the required enzymes into the cells of these plants, which could then produce
the desired enzymes in high yield. Plant-expressed enzymes, he adds, "can
provide the lowest cost capability to make enzymes" for biofuels, compared with
traditional production methods such as fermentation.
Diversa, which is
collaborating with Syngenta on its biofuels program, is looking for genes that
code for cellulose-degrading enzymes in a variety of different places in nature.
According to Dan Robertson, vice president for enzyme technology at Diversa,
some of these genes have even come from the stomachs of cows, which naturally
digest cellulose. He says Diversa has proprietary selection and screening
technologies to find genes best suited for various industrial tasks, including
enzyme production of biofuels in high yields.Enzyme
Any commercial process for enzymatic cellulose conversion, says
Robertson, will probably involve enzyme "cocktails," containing anywhere from
two to six enzymes tailored to particular cellulosic feedstocks. The first
enzyme products stemming from the Syngenta-Diversa collaboration should be
available in about five years, says Eury.Related
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