California-based synthetic biology specialist Synthetic Genomics and oil giant ExxonMobil announced that they have extended their agreement to conduct joint research into advanced algae biofuels after making significant progress in understanding algae genetics, growth characteristics and increasing oil production.
ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics have been jointly researching and developing oil from algae for use as a renewable, lower-emission alternative to traditional transportation fuels since launching the program in 2009.
Work continues toward developing strains of algae that demonstrate significantly improved photosynthetic efficiency and oil production through selection and genetic engineering of higher-performance algae strains.
The agreement continues to focus on Synthetic Genomics’ core strengths in synthetic biology, and builds on recent discoveries of biological pathways regulating lipid production and growth in advanced algal strains.
“Together with ExxonMobil, we have made significant strides to identify and enhance algal strains capable of high oil production while still maintaining desirable rates of growth,” said Oliver Fetzer, CEO of Synthetic Genomics.
“The extension of our agreement reflects the tremendous progress made to date, and the promise in using our core synthetic biology technologies to build cell production systems capable of reshaping industries.”
Vijay Swarup, VP for Research and Development at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company, said that renewal of the agreement underscores the importance of the research and recognition of milestones the team has achieved together over the past few years.
“Synthetic Genomics and ExxonMobil remain committed to advancing the scientific fundamentals of algal biofuels,” Swarup said.
He added: “We know this will be a long-term endeavour and are optimistic based on the results we have seen to date.”
The development of algae biofuels and a path toward commercial-scale production remain key components of ExxonMobil’s suite of research projects focused on producing energy to meet global demand while reducing greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate the risk of climate change.
ExxonMobil is engaged in a broad range of research on advanced biofuels, partnering with universities and other companies. The purpose of these research and development programs is to explore new technologies and seek the best pathways toward scalable and cost-effective production of advanced biofuels.
Global demand for transportation fuels is projected to rise by nearly 30% through 2040, and accelerating the reduction in emissions from the transportation sector will play a critical role in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.
This story was written by Liz Gyekye, editor of Biofuels International.