Issue Date: March 17, 2008
Maryland Bug Boosts Biofuels
Scientists at the University of Maryland are scaling up production of new enzymes that break down cellulose into sugars for subsequent fermentation into ethanol. The enzymes were derived from the bacterium Saccharophagus degradans, isolated from grasses growing in Chesapeake Bay salt marshes. Steve Hutcheson and Ron Weiner, professors at the university's College of Chemical & Life Sciences, are patenting the mixture of enzymes contained in the bacterium and naming it "Ethazyme." Hutcheson founded a company, Zymetis, in 2006 to license the enzymes for biofuels production. Last week, Zymetis received a $50,000 grant from the State of Maryland. The company is working with Fiberight, a regional firm that processes waste cellulose such as paper, to establish a plant that converts such waste into ethanol.
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