Mascoma: Biofuels Digest’s 2015 5-Minute Guide

February 15, 2015 |

Using a proprietary consolidated bioprocessing, or CBP, technology platform, Mascoma has developed genetically-modified yeasts and other microorganisms to reduce costs and improve yields in the production of renewable fuels and chemicals. The CBP platform utilizes genetically modified yeast and bacteria to convert cellulosic biomass into high-value end-products in a single step that combines hydrolysis and fermentation.

The company is also developing novel process solutions, which in combination with its yeast products, can be added to a production facility to create low incremental CapEx production of fuels and chemicals.

The company maintains an operations and demonstration facility in Rome, NY to prove the scalability of its yeasts and process technology.

Rankings

50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy: #29, 2014/15

Biofuels Digest Awards

2012 Yield Improvement Award: Mascoma, Lallemand Ethanol Technology — TransFerm

The Situation

In September 2014, the company deployed a revamped website focused on “deploying its powerful consolidated bioprocessing (CBP) microorganisms to a broad spectrum of biofuel and biochemical applications”.

“We created our new vision to focus on what we do best and to drive commercialization forward. This is a much more viable strategy as compared to our former objective of building commercial scale plants,” said CEO Bill Brady. “We are eager to continue on a path of producing innovative bioconversion technology, and we believe that our newly updated website reflects this renewed focus on our advanced yeast technology products that are already being utilized by over 20 percent of the U.S. ethanol production industry today.”

The company has noted that its CBP technology can enhance yields and reduce enzyme costs for existing biofuel producers, delivering immediate value without the need for capital investments.

Using this approach, the company’s Mascoma Grain Technology, or MGT, yeast products including TransFerm and TransFerm Yield+, have been used to produce over 2 billion gallons of renewable fuel, marking a commercial milestone and indicating the new strategy’s success.

Technology

Consolidated Bio-Processing. For biofuel and biochemical producers consistently achieving the highest rates, titers and yields of products possible is an imperative.  Moving down the production cost curve for conversion of starch, sugar and cellulosic materials in this multi-billion dollar market requires optimal performance of industrial biocatalysts.  Traditional processes use enzymes to break down complex sugars to simple sugars, and yeast or other microorganisms to convert these simple sugars to products like ethanol.  Mascoma’s CBP combines and optimizes these two processes to deliver value to producers:

Enzyme Production: Specially designed and engineered yeasts, such as TransFerm, produce the required enzymes to break down complex sugars during fermentation, saving costs related to producing, stabilizing and shipping enzyme additives, and increasing yields by cost effectively breaking down more complex sugars.

Fermentation: Engineered yeasts which can ferment xylose, have broader substrate ranges than wild type strains to significantly increase fermentation yields on complex substrates.  Optimization of metabolic pathways in strains like TransFerm Yield+, can reduce the formation of byproducts such as glycerol, significantly increasing yield.

Major investors

Flagship Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Atlas Venture, General Catalyst Partners, Blue Sugarsiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, VantagePoint Venture Partners, General Motors, Marathon Oil

Past milestones

In November 2014, Mascoma Corporation announced that it has completed the sale of its yeast business to Lallemand Inc., a privately owned company that researches, develops, produces and markets yeasts, bacteria, and related products. As part of the transaction, Lallemand has acquired the Mascoma company name and trademarks pertaining to the yeast business, all of its proprietary and patented yeast strains and associated technologies, as well as the yeast business’ entire research and development team located at its facility in Lebanon, NH.

Lallemand and Mascoma had been partners in the successful commercialization of the TransFerm line of products, including TransFerm and TransFerm Yield+, to the corn ethanol industry. The TransFerm products, which to date have been used to produce over 2 billion gallons of renewable fuel, will continue to be developed, marketed and sold by Lallemand’s Biofuels & Distilled Spirits (LBDS) business unit.

In December 2013, Mascoma announced that its consolidated bioprocessing technology (CBP) has been used to produce over 1 billion gallons of renewable fuel. This achievement is a key commercial milestone for its MGT yeast products including TransFerm® and TransFerm Yield+™.

TransFerm is an advanced bioengineered replacement for conventional fermenting yeast that lowers costs for corn ethanol producers by alleviating the need to purchase a significant amount of the expensive enzymes currently used in corn ethanol production. Presently, TransFerm is used commercially in approximately 20% of operational corn ethanol facilities in the U.S. In addition, commercial-scale trials are underway at many other corn ethanol producers.

In March 2013, Mascoma Corporation applied to the SEC for the withdrawal of its S-1 Registration Statement, thereby abandoning its contemplated IPO. “The Company has determined at this time not to proceed with the offering due to market conditions,” the SEC notice said, and noted that “The Company may undertake a subsequent private offering. In months leading up to the withdrawal, Mascoma had raised $2.087 million from 19 undisclosed investors, and $5 million from an undisclosed single investor — both in the form of convertible debt.

2010: Opening of demonstration facility in Rome, NY

Future milestones

Completing next round of funding

Business model

Owner / Partner

Competitive edge

The unique technology developed by Mascoma Corporation uses yeast and bacteria that are engineered to produce large quantities of the enzymes necessary to break down the cellulose and ferment the resulting sugars into ethanol. Combining these two steps (enzymatic digestion and fermentation) significantly reduces costs by eliminating the need for enzyme produced in a separate refinery. This process, called Consolidated Bioprocessing or “CBP”, will ultimately enable the conversion of the solar energy contained in plants to ethanol in just a few days.

Alliances and Partnerships

GM, Chevron, Marathon Oil, US DOE, State of NY, State of Michigan

Company Website

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