News //

Success in high value manufacturing

29 August 2013

Congratulations to our investigators Drs Monica Gerth and Wayne Patrick, from the University of Otago, on their success in the latest MBIE funding round.

Monica and Wayne won funding under the High Value Manufacturing and Services Research category, for their work on manufacturing molecules through enzyme engineering.

Their work aims to develop new bio-manufacturing processes for two chemicals currently produced from petroleum: butanone and 2-butanol. The chemicals are used in the millions of tonnes each year at the market is valued at billions of dollars.

Finding new ways to manufacture the chemicals would overcome reliance on petroleum. It would also make use of a chemical produced by LanzaTech NZ Ltd, a successful New Zealand biotechnology company that uses a gas-eating microbe to covert waste gasses (carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide) into bioethanol. In addition to yielding bioethanol the microbe also produces the chemical building block 2,3-butanediol. Monica and Wayne aim to engineer new enzymes that can convert 2,3-butanediol to butanone and 2-butanol.

The research has the potential to establish New Zealand as a centre of the global green chemical market, which is projected to grow from $2.8 billion in 2011 to $98.5 billion in 2020.