Mascoma: Biofuels Digest’s 2014 5-Minute Guide

March 12, 2014 |

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.

Mascoma’s microorganisms have been demonstrated to convert different types of plant material into fuel and chemical end-products in industrial processing conditions. We have built on decades of research to develop and acquire a substantial intellectual property portfolio spanning the breadth of biomass conversion technologies, including in the fields of pretreatment, hydrolysis, metabolic pathway engineering, enzyme expression and process design.

The CBP technology provides them with the ability to use a variety of feedstocks to produce multiple renewable fuel and chemical end-products. The have initially targeted the large and established first generation corn ethanol industry with the proprietary Mascoma Grain Technology, or MGT, yeast product.

In the future, they plan to expand the application of our CBP technology to develop advanced biorefineries that produce multiple high-value end-products, such as advanced fuels and chemicals, from many different feedstocks.


50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy: #23, 2013/14

Biofuels Digest Awards

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


The Situation

The past year has been one of “good news, bad news” for Mascoma.

The bad news? In August, Valero confirmed that it has pulled out of a proposed $232 million Mascoma second-generation facility in Kinross Charter Township. The project has received $120 million in public money for the wood-to-ethanol project. The project hasn’t yet broken ground despite construction having meant to start in 2011 with production coming online this year.

The good news?

In December, the company 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+.


Consolidated Bio-Processing

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.

TransFerm Yield+, recently introduced into the market, offers advantages comparable to TransFerm as well as significant additional benefits including reducing the production of glycerol and improving ethanol yield. In commercial-scale trials at a number of corn ethanol producers, this product has demonstrated ethanol yield improvements of up to 4%.


Fuel type:

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:
First demonstration of CBP technology
Opening of demonstration facility in Rome, NY
Funding from the State of Michigan for commercial ethanol production facility
launched MGT yeast, first commercial product
Moved into the bid review stage for Kinross plant
Mascoma and Lallemand Ethanol Technology entered into a commercial agreement with Pacific Ethanol for MGT Yeast

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.


Future milestones:
Breaking ground on Michigan commercial production facility
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

Development stage:

Company Website:

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Category: 5-Minute Guide

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