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Verenium Awarded U.S. Department of Energy Grant to Speed Enzyme Development for Cellulosic Ethanol Production

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Verenium Corporation has announced that it has been awarded one of four grants from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under a $33.8 million program announced yesterday for the development of improved enzyme systems to be used in converting biomass into clean, renewable cellulosic ethanol. The grants will be appropriated over a four-year period beginning now through 2011.

Improved enzymes are the key to low-cost commercialization of next-generation ethanol, and only four companies in the nation received the DOE awards. The grant was announced by Andrew Karsner, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, during a speech yesterday to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) in Orlando, Florida.

Verenium plans to use the funding to further efforts for the “commercialization of customized cellulase solutions for biomass saccharification”. The work will leverage Verenium’s proprietary library of enzymes and DirectEvolution™ technology to develop and optimize more robust and cost-effective enzymes to breakdown biomass feedstocks into fermentable sugars for making ethanol.

The DOE will now work with the selected companies to determine final project plans and funding levels, subject to appropriations by Congress.

“This award validates the advanced enzyme research we’ve been doing through both our previous grant work with the DOE and over the last 10 years with our leading R&D team and is welcome news as we move toward completing mechanical construction of the nation’s first cellulosic ethanol demonstration plant,” said Carlos A. Riva, President and Chief Executive Officer at Verenium.

“Such government support helps accelerate the science behind commercially viable biofuels, and supports the growing cellulosic ethanol industry in addressing America’s urgent need for alternative fuels,” Riva added.