Protabit Receives Second NSF Grant for Cellulosic Biofuels Research

October 30, 2013

National Science Foundation Awards Phase I Small Business Technology Transfer Grant for Engineering Cellulase Enhancing Enzymes.

PASADENA, CA (PRWeb), July 1, 2013 — The National Science Foundation awarded a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I grant to Protabit LLC, a Pasadena-based spin-out from the California Institute of Technology. The grant will be used to engineer cellulase-enhancing enzymes called polysaccharide monooxygenases (PMOs) for the production of biofuels from non-edible corn stover biomass. The abstract of the grant is available here: http://nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=1332185.

At the core of Protabit’s engineering approach is Triad, a computational protein design software platform that is used to generate new enzymes for experimental evaluation. Triad is the product of research by thought leaders in the field including Prof. Stephen Mayo, chair of the Division of Biology and Biological Engineering at Caltech and a co-founder of the company.  For this STTR project, Protabit will apply Triad to generate libraries of possible enzyme variants predicted to be stable at higher temperatures; the team at Caltech will then produce these enzymes and screen them for the desired properties using robotics-enabled high-throughput techniques.

“This grant from the NSF may help reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil by enabling Protabit to develop more efficient cellulases for advanced biofuels,” said Dr. Barry Olafson, CEO and co-founder. “Because they are derived from non-edible biomass, these biofuels can also reduce our carbon footprint without impacting the global food supply.”

About Protabit LLC

Protabit engineers proteins for industrial, agricultural, and healthcare applications. The company’s platform technology is being developed via a strategic partnership with the California Institute of Technology and the Monsanto Company. Protabit’s protein engineering approach combines computational modeling with high-throughput screening and directed evolution to expand the diversity of protein sequences that can be explored. This hybrid approach can yield proteins with enhanced properties or novel enzymes that catalyze chemistries not found in nature. For more information, please visit www.protabit.com.