5
Partnerships and Integration

Workshop organizer Doug Ray remarked at the start of the workshop, that this was an opportunity for participants to reach across disciplines and learn from one another. A number of speakers reiterated similar messages in their talks, and highlighted the need for partnerships, and other efforts that bring different sectors and disciplines together to advance bioinspired chemistry approaches for energy applications. Various speakers and workshop participants presented their thoughts on these needs.

PARTNERSHIPS

Brent Erickson of Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) discussed the importance of partnerships among companies. He thinks that large companies with broad skills in biotechnology or those that have good biotechnology partners will capture the full value creation and benefit in the chemicals and fuels markets. Smaller companies, said Erickson, can benefit by partnering with each other or with larger companies, or they can forge strategic partnerships with industrial biotech companies. Henry Bryndza of DuPont stressed how important partnerships are for success. For DuPont, there is a complex value chain driven by market disruptions that require partnerships and integrated science approaches to make a difference. He said, “We really need partnerships…. We are partnering in virtually all of these areas for a couple of reasons. One is that we can’t do it all ourselves. The second is that in some cases, partners bring market-channel access that we don’t have.”

As discussed in Chapter 2, Michael Clarke of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Chemistry Division talked about an NSF program that forms partnerships in academe. The program was originally called the Chemical Bonding Centers but is now the Centers for Chemical Innovation. NSF makes a number of relatively small awards, around $500,000, to fund a group of scientists to collaborate on a major chemistry problem. Harry Gray, Kitt Cummins, Nate Louis, Dan Nocera, and others are working on a project involving the direct conversion of sunlight into fuel. They are in the initial stages of the program and have received about $500,000 so far. After several years, the research teams can apply for funding up to several million dollars per year.

Brent Erickson of BIO, Henry Bryndza of DuPont, and Mark Emptage of DuPont presented several more examples of projects involving partnerships among and between industry, academe, and national laboratories:

  • The company POET is working with Novozymes to develop a no-cook cold enzyme saccharification step that will reduce the amount of energy for conventional ethanol production.

  • POET and Ethanex have developed an improved fractionation process so that when corn is ground, a much finer separation of all the different components of the corn kernel results. In combination with the no-cook process fractionation, this leads to a 6 percent increase in ethanol yield. Some of the enzyme hydrolysis waste is put back in the broiler along with the corn stover and cob fiber to generate electricity.

  • Cargill has been working on developing a biological route from corn sugar to 3-hydroxypropionic acid (3 HP) for about five years, but could not solve the last step. They then decided to partner with Codexis, which used their metabolic engineering high-throughput screening to figure out how to do it biologically. One of the products of this process is acrylic acid, which is about a $4 billion global industry. Erickson noted that producing 3 HP from corn sugar is much cheaper and more environmentally friendly than making it from petroleum. Cargill is now working to commercialize this process.



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5 Partnerships and Integration Workshop organizer Doug Ray remarked at the start of around $500,000, to fund a group of scientists to collaborate the workshop, that this was an opportunity for participants on a major chemistry problem. Harry Gray, Kitt Cummins, to reach across disciplines and learn from one another. A Nate Louis, Dan Nocera, and others are working on a project number of speakers reiterated similar messages in their involving the direct conversion of sunlight into fuel. They are talks, and highlighted the need for partnerships, and other in the initial stages of the program and have received about efforts that bring different sectors and disciplines together $500,000 so far. After several years, the research teams can to advance bioinspired chemistry approaches for energy apply for funding up to several million dollars per year. applications. Various speakers and workshop participants Brent Erickson of BIO, Henry Bryndza of DuPont, and presented their thoughts on these needs. Mark Emptage of DuPont presented several more examples of projects involving partnerships among and between industry, academe, and national laboratories: PARTNERSHIPS • The company POET is working with Novozymes Brent Erickson of Biotechnology Industry Organiza- tion (BIO) discussed the importance of partnerships among to develop a no-cook cold enzyme saccharification step that companies. He thinks that large companies with broad skills will reduce the amount of energy for conventional ethanol in biotechnology or those that have good biotechnology production. • POET and Ethanex have developed an improved partners will capture the full value creation and benefit in the chemicals and fuels markets. Smaller companies, said fractionation process so that when corn is ground, a much Erickson, can benefit by partnering with each other or with finer separation of all the different components of the corn larger companies, or they can forge strategic partnerships kernel results. In combination with the no-cook process with industrial biotech companies. Henry Bryndza of fractionation, this leads to a 6 percent increase in ethanol DuPont stressed how important partnerships are for success. yield. Some of the enzyme hydrolysis waste is put back in the For DuPont, there is a complex value chain driven by market broiler along with the corn stover and cob fiber to generate disruptions that require partnerships and integrated science electricity. • Cargill has been working on developing a biological approaches to make a difference. He said, “We really need partnerships. . . . We are partnering in virtually all of these route from corn sugar to 3-hydroxypropionic acid (3 HP) for areas for a couple of reasons. One is that we can’t do it all about five years, but could not solve the last step. They then ourselves. The second is that in some cases, partners bring decided to partner with Codexis, which used their metabolic market-channel access that we don’t have.” engineering high-throughput screening to figure out how As discussed in Chapter 2, Michael Clarke of the to do it biologically. One of the products of this process National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Chemistry Division is acrylic acid, which is about a $4 billion global industry. talked about an NSF program that forms partnerships in Erickson noted that producing 3 HP from corn sugar is much academe. The program was originally called the Chemi- cheaper and more environmentally friendly than making it cal Bonding Centers but is now the Centers for Chemical from petroleum. Cargill is now working to commercialize Innovation. NSF makes a number of relatively small awards, this process. 31

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 BIOINSPIRED CHEMISTRY FOR ENERGY • Cargill and Ashland are going to work together to an integrative approach is necessary to reach such goals, take the glycerine from biodiesel production in Europe to and that it is important to acknowledge the roles of allies in make propylene glycol. various scientific and engineering fields. • DuPont’s cellulosic ethanol program is a con- Mark Emptage of DuPont talked about how critical sortium effort involving other companies, government integration is when transferring biomass on the farm to fuels laboratories, and academia. A wide variety of chemical and in automobiles. He said that no single company has all the biological technologies is being looked at to convert mass necessary technologies, so it is important to work together. into concentrated bio oil. According to Henry Bryndza, During the discussion after the “Robust Implementation” session (Chapter 4), Alex Harris of Brookhaven National DuPont representatives think that the variation in biomass feedstocks is going to require an integration of sciences and Laboratory discussed integrating both ideas and materials. He multiple technologies. believes inorganic concepts need to be integrated with life pro- • An integrated corn biorefinery project has DuPont cesses to make energy-producing or conversion schemes work. partnering with Michigan State University, the National Harris referred to examples in the presentations that described Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and Vernium Corp. different approaches of life systems compared with engineered The project is funded by the Department of Energy using systems in terms of how a charge is transported from one a 50/50 cost-share approach, where companies contribute place to another and whether it is stored as chemical energy 50 percent of the funding. Pioneer, a DuPont-owned seed or transported as charger carriers. He asked, “Are we going to company, and John Deere work on feedstock harvest and learn from life systems’ basic principles of thermodynamics transport. Michigan State is working on a life-cycle assess- and chemical processes? Is that more likely to be the produc- ment of farming practices to understand the sustainability of tive route than to mimic what they’re actually doing?” Harris feeding corn stover into the process. DuPont and Verenium also asked about the challenges in integrating bioinspired systems with inorganic ones. G. Tayhas Palmore of Brown are working on developing new enzymes for the hydrolysis of corn stover to fermentable sugars. NREL has developed University explained that there needs to be an integration of several technologies for pretreatment with ethanologenic both ideas and materials, and that a multidisciplinary team will fermentation organisms. help address the challenges presented. INTEGRATION AND INTERDISCIPLINARITY THE NEED fOR AN HONEST BROkER Bryndza thinks the integration of multiple sciences During the discussion after the “Industry Perspectives” session (Chapter 2), Daniel Nocera of the Massachusetts and technologies is necessary. He said that it takes more than biology; chemistry technologies are needed as well as Institute of Technology highlighted the need for an honest mechanical technologies. Bryndza also believes integration broker. He thinks that scientists can be honest brokers but is important in finding the best solution. He thinks that if asked the group to identify an organization that could be an scientists approach energy problems from either a biological effective, honest broker to guide scientists toward strategic perspective or a chemical perspective, it will not work investment. economically. During the “Fundamental Aspects” discussion (Chap- DEfINING DISTINCT ROLES ter 3) Marcetta Darensbourg of Texas A&M University said that her team’s work could not be done without the During the discussion after the “Robust Implementa- help of protein crystallographers. She said that there needs tion” session (Chapter 4), Daniel Nocera declared that to be support for chemists, biologists, and computational academia, national labs, and industry each have their own chemists. distinct roles. He said that academics should be working on Sharon Haynie of DuPont said that it is important not to problems that nobody else wants to work on because there is no financial payback. Eric Rohlfing of the Department of forget the large infrastructure necessary to reach bioinspired chemistry for energy goals, including analytical, computa- Energy talked about how difficult it is for physical scientists tional, and engineering components. Haynie believes that to understand biological systems.