New Technology Saves Sucrose in Ethanol Production

New sugarcane plants that can be used for more cost-effective ethanol production without compromising the commercial sugar potential of these plants have been developed by Farmacule and its research partner Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia.

Brisbane-based agbiotech company Farmacule BioIndustries introduced a patented gene-activation technology at the 2006 Biotech Industry Organization annual conference in Chicago, which ended April 12, 2006. INPACT (‘In-Plant Activation technology’) is the key component in the company’s patented gene activation technology that is producing Farmacule’s new plants. According to Mel Bridges, Farmacule chairman, the company’s research team successfully modified sugarcane plants using the INPACT technology (and cellulases in the plant) to enable highly efficient conversion of cellulose into fermentable sugars after crushing. The remaining sugars can then be used efficiently to produce bioethanol, leaving the sucrose untouched and available for the consumer sugar market. Bridges says that the concept, known as cellulosic bioethanol, is seen as the next generation of ethanol production techniques as it aims to produce higher yields per hectare at costs lower than current techniques. “President Bush recently endorsed the cellulosic bioethanol approach, suggesting that it may come to market within six years,” said Bridges. “Farmacule’s genetic technology will make this a reality, producing viable plants that contain the cellulase enzyme to enable the cost-efficient production of ethanol as a byproduct of the sugarcane.” Farmacule’s proprietary technology, Bridges added, would use cellulase in the sugarcane leaf material to convert cellulose to fermentable sugars that could then be converted to bioethanol. He said the use of this technology in bioethanol production is an important development in alternative fuels and offers strong benefits for sugar producers and the local and international economies. “The key to our approach will be to generate plants in which the over-expression of high levels of cellulase is tightly controlled, and activated when required, using our technology. This ensures that the sucrose used for consumer sugar is not sacrificed in any way — we would just be using the waste that’s left after the sucrose is extracted,” he explained. Farmacule BioIndustries is a developer of molecular farming technology to cost-effectively mass produce high-value proteins, biofuels and bioplastics in plants for various applications.


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