Metabolix, Inc., a bioscience company focused on developing clean, sustainable solutions for plastics, chemicals and energy, today announced that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded the company a $6 million grant. The grant is part of the Obama administration’s $42 million research and development project fund to support the production of biofuels, bioenergy and high-value biobased products. Metabolix will use the funding to continue research of engineered switchgrass in an effort to provide a sustainable alternative to petroleum feedstocks.
For several years, Metabolix has advanced its biomass biorefinery platform using switchgrass. Under the new grant agreement, the company plans to attempt to further enhance expression of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) in switchgrass to allow co-production of chemicals and densified biomass. In addition to attempting to produce densified biomass with transportation and fuel properties closely matching coal, Metabolix also plans to further develop and scale-up its selective thermolysis process which utilizes moderate temperature to recover a new platform chemical directly from PHA containing switchgrass. This platform chemical, crotonic acid, can be readily converted through simple known chemical conversion steps to a range of commodity chemical intermediates including butanol and propylene.
“The DOE funding is another exciting step towards creating a bioenergy infrastructure that has the potential to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and increase economic development in America,” said Oliver Peoples, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer and vice president of Research and Development at Metabolix.