Critical Enzymes for Sustainable Biofuels from Cellulose

acronym: CESBIC

RESULTS of CESBIC: Presentation can be found here.

Project coordinator
- Prof. Paul Howard Walton & Prof. Gideon John Davies - Department of Chemistry, University of York - UK
Project leaders
- Prof. Bernard Henrissat - Architecture et Fonction des Macromolécules Biologiques, Aix-Marseille Université CNRS - France
- Prof. Leila Lo Leggio - Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen - Denmark
- Prof. Paul Dupree - Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge - UK
- Dr Katja Johansen - Novozymes A/S, Copenhagen - Denmark

Bioethanol produced from cellulose has the potential to transform the future of biofuels. It carries major and unique advantages in terms of carbon footprint, energy efficiency, use of low-value resources including waste, and economic viability. However, these advantages cannot be realised until an efficient means of overcoming the chemical recalcitrance of cellulose can be found.
In a recent (2011) major breakthrough it was shown that certain fungal enzymes are unprecedented copper-containing oxidases which have the capacity to breakdown cellulose into its constituent sugars. These enzymes have become the centre of worldwide attention as they likely hold the key to making cellulosic bioethanol a reality.
This proposal seeks to provide industry with an in-depth understanding of these enzymes, such that their commercial use can be maximised. It objectives are to:

  • use modern genomics to catalogue the full range of cellulose-disrupting enzymes produced by fungi
  • undertake a full structural, activity and mechanistic study of the enzymes
  • perform pilot scale tests on the industrial production of the enzymes, and—critically—examine their efficacy in an industrial setting

Our expected results are a complete understanding of the enzymes‘ mechanism of action and a deep appreciation of their structural and functional aspects, thus creating a world-leading knowledge base. We also expect to have curated and made available a much expanded genomic database of these enzymes, including links to their activities and structures—i.e. a single web-based resource for both academic and industrial researchers. And, finally, we expect to have supported strongly European enzyme-producing industry through up-to-date knowledge on enzyme function and insight into the most promising enzymatic candidates for commercialisation.
Exploitation will be both direct and indirect. In the direct sense, the project has an industrial partner who will immediately take results from the project into an industrial context and undertake assessment trials. Indirectly the project aims to benefit the wider European and global bioethanol community through the CAZy database by the cataloguing and publication of integrated genomic, structural and activity data for this class of enzymes.