Novel Biological Carbon Fixation Pathway to Increase Plant Yield

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OPEN 2021
Berkeley, California
Project Term:
06/02/2022 - 06/01/2024

Critical Need:

Anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have caused ~1°C of warming above pre-industrial levels, with warming likely to reach or exceed 2°C this century without aggressive intervention. Expanding the bioeconomy to support carbon drawdown and carbon-neutral fuel and chemical production could be an important tool to addressing climate change by enabling a carbon-negative economy. Plants, which use photosynthesis to convert diffuse atmospheric CO2 into biomass and can be used as a feedstock for renewable fuels, chemical, and materials will be an essential part of this new carbon future. Because half of Earth's habitable land is already dedicated to agriculture, significantly increasing plant productivity is needed to balance competing land uses including for biofuel, bioproducts, and food production. Improving photosynthetic capacity will be necessary for driving future yield improvements.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

Perlumi Chemicals will develop a novel biological carbon fixation pathway with a more efficient carboxylase to better utilize CO2. Rubisco, the carbon-fixing enzyme central to the carbon fixation cycle in plants, is rather inefficient, limiting how much CO2 a plant can convert into sugars per unit time. The Perlumi team will improve pathway enzymes using metabolic modeling and directed evolution, and implement the novel pathway in living systems. Perlumi’s modeling shows the theoretical maximum speed increase is three times as fast as the Calvin-Benson cycle, the pathway for carbon assimilation in plants. In addition, the team has demonstrated a significant portion of the pathway in vitro using a purified enzyme assay as a proof of concept. The final project goal is a plant with a 50% increase in yield.

Potential Impact:

The novel biological carbon fixation pathway will yield plants with higher yields and reduced energy requirements for cultivation.


Plant yield improvements will benefit the domestic agricultural production sector and bioeconomy, increasing resiliency and sustainability in these sectors.


Plant-derived carbon is the raw input enabling the bioeconomy to make biofuels and bioproducts, displacing hard-to-decarbonize fossil incumbents. Improved crop varieties will reduce the carbon and resource intensity of agricultural production, and would increase the ability of plants to draw down more atmospheric CO2.


Improving photosynthetic efficiency will improve the economics for the bioeconomy and sustainable agriculture production.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Kirk Liu
Project Contact:
Dr. Christopher Eiben
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


University of California, Berkeley

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