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Center’s First Spinoff Company Aims to Lower the Cost of Biofuel Production





The Danforth Center entered into its first joint venture with the announcement of a spinoff company known as Agrius BioForms LLC (ABF) on June 12, 2009. ABF was formed in partnership with GeoSynFuels LLC, a privately owned company that is working to develop low cost processes for the production of biofuels from renewable feedstocks. Agrius BioForms originated from research by the USDA and Center scientists Drs. Eliot Herman and Monica Schmidt, and will focus on the use of soybeans and other high-protein seeds to produce industrial proteins.

“The partnership between the Danforth Center, the USDA and GeoSynFuels to commercialize scientific discovery is an important next step in the process of sharing the benefits of scientific discovery in a way that will have wide public benefits,” said Dr. Roger Beachy, president of the Danforth Center. The initial focus of the company will be to lower the cost of enzyme production for use in GeoSynFuels’ cellulosic biofuels process, which degrades non- edible plant matter into ethanol. The process can use materials such as grasses, cornhusks and woodchips, traditionally viewed as agricultural waste, converting


it into energy. Creating the industrial enzymes for this process by traditional means is considered to be very expensive, making ethanol production too costly to compete as an alternative fuel. ABF aims to take advantage of soybean and other plant’s natural abilities to create and store proteins by using them as “biofactories,” creating specific enzymes inexpensively and efficiently.

Among the many supporters of this partnership is U.S. Senator Kit Bond, who worked for passage of legislation to obtain funds to locate the USDA lab and Dr. Herman at the Danforth Center in 2002. With this move, the USDA recognized the value of a creating a partnership with a new cutting edge research institute. Dr. Herman has since joined the Center as a Member and Principal Investigator.

“The technology created by this innovative partnership has the potential to provide us with clean and sustainable energy supplies,” said Senator Bond. “It is critical that we continue to invest in life sciences research, an industry that holds amazing promise for uncovering new homegrown energy solutions, improving human health, and enhancing agriculture production and nutrition around the world.”

Dr. Eliot Herman expressed hope that the company will have a viable product within the next 5 years.

2009 Annual Report

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