Monday, April 16, 2007


It appears our area may play a leading role in this exciting new science, and that is a very good thing.

Region takes biofuels lead
Breakthrough in cellulosic field could bring big payoff
By Jim Downing - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, April 16, 2007

In Davis, one of the top ideas for a new green fuel sprouted from something blue: denim.

In the 1990s, Glenn Nedwin's company designed enzymes with a refined appetite for cotton. Their chemical brews nibbled at the fabric in jeans, making them look stylishly worn-out.

Then, in 2000, Nedwin and biochemist Joel Cherry decided to make amped-up versions of the same sorts of chemicals. Instead of gently weathering the natural cotton fibers in clothing, these new enzymes would dissolve the fibers of most any plant into a sugary mush.

Which could then be fermented into what's known as cellulosic ethanol.

Which today, under President Bush's new biofuels plan, has become the object of a sort of national quest, drawing billions in federal support and venture capital.

The fashion-to-fuel insight turned the company, now called Novozymes Inc., into a world leader in the cellulosic ethanol industry and helped make the Sacramento area an important player in an emerging area of research. In five years, Novozymes' researchers, led by Cherry, cut the estimated production cost for the fuel in half.

That transformed it from a pie-in-the-sky idea into what is emerging as a realistic -- if still speculative -- alternative to gasoline.