Engineering Enzymes in Energy Crops

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OPEN 2009
Medford, Massachusetts
Project Term:
01/15/2010 - 03/31/2015

Technology Description:

Enzymes are required to break plant biomass down into the fermentable sugars that are used to create biofuel. Currently, costly enzymes must be added to the biofuel production process. Engineering crops to already contain these enzymes will reduce costs and produce biomass that is more easily digested. In fact, enzyme costs alone account for $0.50-$0.75/gallon of the cost of a biomass-derived biofuel like ethanol. Agrivida is genetically engineering plants to contain high concentrations of enzymes that break down cell walls. These enzymes can be "switched on" after harvest so they won't damage the plant while it's growing.

Potential Impact:

If successful, Agrivida would decrease the production cost of domestic biofuels by up to 20%.


Increasing production of domestic biofuels could help the U.S. cut foreign oil imports by 33% in 15 years.


Widespread use of biofuels, biopower, and other bio-based products has the potential to conserve 1.26 billion barrels of oil, 58 million tons of coal, and 682 million tons of carbon dioxide from 2020-2030.


Widespread use of biofuels would help reduce and stabilize gas prices for consumers.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Jonathan Burbaum
Project Contact:
Dr. R. Michael Raab
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Project Contact Email:

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