Novozymes launches yeast platform for corn ethanol production

By Lisa Gibson | February 05, 2018

Today, well-known enzyme developer Novozymes launches Drive, the first product from its Innova yeast platform for corn ethanol production. Innova Drive, developed in partnership with Microbiogen, is available for purchase, marking Novozymes’ entrance into the corn ethanol yeast market.

Kim Bertz, Novozymes’ senior manager of bioenergy business development, says Innova Drive, a cream yeast, outperforms yeast currently on the market, tolerating more solids (37 percent, compared with traditional 34), higher temperatures (98 degrees Fahrenheit, compared with 94) and more organic acids. It also reduces fermentation time by up to two hours, according to the company.

Brian Brazeau, vice president of biofuels commercial for Novozymes, says the company developed its yeast with two main factors in mind: efficient ethanol production and tailored problem-solving. Plants run to make up for enzyme and yeast inefficiencies, he says, but Innova Drive is designed to solve those issues, allowing plants to “run how they want.”

Innova Drive is developed through natural breeding and evolution, collecting existing traits to maximize the product, according to David Hogsett, director of biofuels yeast strain engineering. The platform also uses genetic engineering, to prompt the yeast to produce an advanced glucoamylase during fermentation, he says. The glucoamylase is a part of Novozymes’ existing collection of starch-degrading enzymes, and is twice as effective at converting sugar to ethanol as glucoamylases produced by other yeast products, according to Novozymes. The mix of classical and genetic engineering tools helps create optimal product, Hogsett says. “We are not frozen with one or the other. We can draw very broadly on both classical and new, modern tools.”

Novozymes also has developed a dosage skid to address customers’ concerns with a cream product, says Laurie Duval, director of biofuel technical services. The skid ensures accurate dosage, performs auto cleaning, reduces contamination and decreases likelihood of human error.

Yeast development is a natural move for Novozymes, Bertz and Brazeau say, drawing on decades of experience in the enzyme field. Enzymes and yeast should work together optimally, they add. The company has produced yeast for the cellulosic ethanol industry, but never for corn ethanol.

“We’re happy to introduce Innova Drive,” Bertz says. “It’s totally different from anything on the market. It’s built to handle anything that gets thrown at it.”