Recently recognized by President George W. Bush for its research in alternative fuel technology, Novozymes is a world leader in applying advanced enzyme technology to the production of fuel from grain and cellulosic feedstock.

The strategy was unveiled at a press conference that was followed by a panel discussion featuring Per Falholt, Novozymes chief scientific officer; Maria Rapoza, vice president for Science and Technology, North Carolina Biotechnology Center; and Dan Schwartzkopf, National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) dragster and Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) representative. Brent Erickson, vice president of the Industrial and Environmental Section at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), served as moderator.

“As the biotech-based world leader in enzymes and microorganisms, Novozymes understands how biotechnology can exponentially increase benefits to society,” said Falholt. “Cellulosic ethanol fuel is poised to create a multidimensional positive impact on the world’s economy, resources, environment and political situation. Novozymes’ five-step strategy is designed to foster not only the scientific progress of cellulosic ethanol, but also the commercial viability of this critical energy source.”

The strategy comprises:

  1. Continued funding of research and development (specifically in the areas of biomass conversion and the development of a commercial process technology).
  2. Establishment of flexible configuration testing and development centers, geographically distributed to address multiple types of biomass feedstock and integrate processes (pretreatment, hydrolysis and fermentation).
  3. Scientific advancement to increase cost efficiency by improving underlying agricultural practices (collection and harvest of biomass) and pre-treatment methods.
  4. Scientific advancement in biotechnology (including enzyme technology, metabolic engineering and novel separation methods).
  5. Continued bi-partisan support of a national infrastructure to support practical implementation (including funding, incentives and tax credits).

According to Rapoza, “Because these new enzymatic technologies have the potential to be used on many different crops to produce biofuels from cellulose, it is important to ensure coordination at a number of different levels, including in university research programs, commercial development and agricultural production, and the identification of suitable crops.”

Rapoza said that coordination hinges on regional support and involvement, especially in states outside the Corn Belt such as North Carolina. “There is a long chain of events that need to happen to carry this process forward to the point where someone can pull up to the gas pump and buy bioethanol,” she said. “North Carolina’s effort is designed to provide clear focus and coordination in order to advance the process to a point where the private sector will commit support and resources as well.”

Falholt said that the path is clear and confirmed this journey towards economical viability could last 4 to 5 years: “Novozymes’ research demonstrates that if all Americans drove just 20 miles a day on E10 fuel, annual carbon dioxide emissions would be reduced by approximately 16 million tons – and that’s just the first step,” he said. “To make daily use of cellulosic ethanol not only a possibility but an economic and practical reality, all parties need to contribute to a common vision. Novozymes is proud to help lead and inspire others to join on that path.”