Biofuel collaboration: Mascoma and NextFerm Technologies enter partnership on yeast-based innovation

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24 Sep 2018 --- Mascoma LLC, a subsidiary of Canadian business Lallemand Inc., and NextFerm Technologies have signed a new commercial joint development agreement that will expand their collaboration into the biofuels category. NextFerm is an Israeli biotech start-up that is developing and producing high-end, science-based, fermentation-derived ingredients for the global food and feed industries.

Conversion of grain starch and fiber into fuel ethanol is a well-established industry, with an estimated annual production value of US$30 billion in the US and Canada and US$40 billion, globally. Yeast is the heartbeat of an operating fuel ethanol production facility and is an essential element in its cost structure.

Elzaphan Hotamm VP Global Marketing for NextFerm Technologies tells FoodIngredientsFirst: “Our strategy is quite comprehensive and is specifically focused on developing novel or 'better than' active ingredients via a heavy investment in science and technology to provide a lasting edge for our products.  All of which would be based on yeast fermentation as a core principle. The areas which we have either developed or will develop actives include baker’s yeast, proteins, FOS and carotenoids.”

“We are about to launch yeast-derived astaxanthin which we believe to have significant advantages over existing algae-based solutions.”   

“This agreement itself is a token of Mascoma's appreciation of our technology and capabilities to deliver what we promise. Those are important elements in building our reputation as a company for both our shareholders and future customers. Specifically, if this becomes successful, it will provide a significant revenue stream coming from the licensing of the technology to Lallemand,” Hotamm explains.

“Our current strategy involves a movement from the supplement market to human nutrition (functional foods) into animal feed.  Specifically, this describes our intention to offer astaxanthin initially for human nutrition and later for salmon farms where the astaxanthin is used as a food colorant. The animal feed sector is significantly larger,” she adds.  

“We are pleased with the opportunity to continue with the great collaboration with Lallemand. For us, this new agreement represents yet another validation that our core technology and unique approach to non-GM yeast modification works and on an industrial scale,” says Dr. Tzafra Cohen, Co-founder and Vice President of R&D at NextFerm Technologies. 

“Lallemand as a leading global yeast producer and innovator is always interested in developing new partnerships. As experts in genetic engineering for yeast producing fuel ethanol, we believe this project is an excellent opportunity to exploit the synergy between our respective technologies. We’ve seen a high level of professionalism and experience coming from NextFerm Technologies which gives us tremendous confidence going forward,” says Kevin Wenger, Executive Vice President of Mascoma LLC. 

“The biofuel industry is constantly demanding higher efficiency and better cost performance. Thus, yeast performance under extreme conditions is highly important. Here, in this project as well as in our previous NextFreeze project, we will be isolating and then improving natural yeast strains with enhanced resistance to environmental pressure. We believe that our previously successful approach will be proven useful here as well,” concludes Dr. Cohen. 

By Elizabeth Green

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