A spin-off from the University of Maryland, Zymetis, is seeking to commercialize a marine bacterium that the company says is the fastest known degrader of whole plant biomass.

The bacterium has a known genome and is capable of deploying almost 90 different enzymes which, in concert, are capable of reducing all of the carbohydrate polymers found in plants to their constituent sugars.

The company’s technology is protected by four patents and 10 patents pending, with more in line for filing.

Tested feedstocks include ag wastes, including corn cob, stover and fiber; other grasses, such as switchgrass and cordgrass; and hardwood and softwood timber stocks such as sawdust and waste paper fiber. The company has also demonstrated that these enzymes function under industrial conditions.

Because of the organism’s efficient metabolism and broad portfolio of enzymes, Zymetis has been able to demonstrate not only the ability to reduce many types of biomass to sugar, but also the ability to reduce plant polymers to specific oligomers rather than just monomeric sugars.

This makes Zymetis technology particularly attractive to partners whose fermentations are conducted by organisms other than yeast, the company suggests.

Zymetis has programs to license its technology in four areas:

  • Enzymes
  • Protocols
  • Genes
  • Organisms

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