This talk was one of my favorites of the conference. Paul Attfield from Microbiogen gave a talk about breeding a new yeast that can break down cellulose. This was an interesting talk in that they decided to not genetically engineer the yeast, as most companies try to do, but rather to selectively breed the yeast for the desired effect. I talked to Mr. Attfield later and he explained that they chose selective breeding in order to combat any unforeseen side effects from genetic engineering. They mated strains from multiple application from brewer’s yeast to other industrial strains. This yeast could serve multiple purposes as it can be used to ferment feedstocks to turn into ethanol as well as be used for animal feedstocks as the yeast has a high protein content. Because the yeast is selectively bred and not genetically engineered it can be used for more applications safely, such as animal and human consumption. This yeast could work on multiple feedstocks including the waste bagasse. One hectare of sugar cane including using the bagasse should produce 9 tons of biomass and 2 tons of yeast. This waste biomass would then produce 54 kj of energy for one hectare, plus animal feed. I am excited to see where this process goes and what other research comes out of this company.
-02: Conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to fuel and food using a non-recombinant Saccharomyces cerevisiae selectively bred to metabolize xylose