Programs

Our computational protein engineering platform is suitable for applications in medical (red), industrial (white), and agricultural (green) biotechnology.  We are presently working on three major programs, and we are exploring additional opportunities to apply our technology to engineer enzymes and human therapeutics.

Triad software development

In partnership with Monsanto Company and the Mayo Lab at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Protabit has been developing the most advanced commercial-grade computational protein design (CPD) platform available.  We are actively adding new features, improving existing ones, and refining the platform in the context of real-world protein engineering problems.

Cellulase engineering

Cellulose (and its heterogeneous cousin hemicellulose) is the major constituent of plant biomass and the most abundant polymer on earth. The long polysaccharide chains are also a substantial source of renewable sugars for the biosynthesis of fuels and petrochemical substitutes. Liberating these sugars is expensive, however, and typically involves soaking pre-treated biomass in a cocktail of lignocellulolytic enzymes. Reducing the per unit cost of these enzymes, as well as reducing process residence time, is critical for pushing advanced biofuels technology over the economic tipping point to profitability. Sponsored by small-business grants from the National Science Foundation, Protabit has partnered with the Mayo Lab to apply the Triad CPD platform to engineer more thermostable and cost-effective lignocellulosic enzymes for converting biomass to fermentable sugars. We will also optimize the mixture of these enzymes for activity on corn stover, switchgrass, and other biomass feedstocks.

Methane-to-liquids (MTL) bioconversion

New sources of abundant and inexpensive methane gas are flared/wasted or remain untapped because of the high cost of capturing and transporting the gas from remote sites and off-shore platforms. In addition, gas-to-liquids conversion is presently untenable at these remote sources due to the capital-intensive thermochemical processes required to activate the strong methane C-H bond. An alternative solution is possible using methane monooxygenases (MMOs), enzymes found in nature that catalyze methane C-H bond activation at ambient temperatures and pressures. Thus, MMOs have the potential to unlock vast reserves of methane gas for use as building block molecules in the synthesis of a wide variety of fuels and petrochemicals. In addition, micro-scale processes enabled by MMOs can cut down on wasteful gas flaring, which accounts for nearly a third of the natural gas produced in North Dakota and nearly $100B globally. Protabit and its partners at Northwestern and Caltech are presently pursuing several engineering strategies for developing efficient MMOs that can be expressed recombinantly.