Mascoma Corporation, one of the leading cellulosic biomass-to-biofuels companies, previous post, today announced former United States Senator Tom Daschle has joined the company’s Board of Directors. Previously, he served more than 25 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate where he acted as both Senate Minority and Majority Leader for 10 years. He is a longtime ethanol advocate who has sponsored legislation and led Congressional measures to advance the renewable fuels industry.
“Senator Daschle provides Mascoma with significant government and industry expertise for the emerging market in cellulosic ethanol. Tom shares in our vision that cellulosic ethanol is key to reducing our nation’s dependence on foreign oil and our own greenhouse gas emissions,” said Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures, a founding Mascoma investor. “With this additional expertise in public policy, along with our existing executive, scientific and investor support, we are well positioned to play a significant role in this industry.”
Founded by Prof. Charles Wyman, Prof. Robert Johnson, and Prof. Lee Lynd of Dartmouth College and a portfolio of licensed technologies from Dartmouth College the companies research laboratories are now developing a new generation of enzymes, microbes and processes for economical conversion of cellulosic feedstocks into ethanol. It is aggressively pursuing the development of advanced cellulosic ethanol technologies based on work developed in Professor Lee Lynd’s labs at Dartmouth College. Mascoma’s industry-leading R&D is focused on reducing the biologically mediated steps in ethanol production to a single step.
The combination of Mascoma's excellent technology with Daschle and his longtime political experience and Vinod Kholsa's investment expertise make a powerful team that will be hard to beat in the cellulosic ethanol field.
A chronology of the companies significant events depicts their rapid growth in the last year:
In Dec 2006 they received a New York state contract for $20 million to build and operate a test facility using agricultural and/or forest products as biomass, including paper sludge, wood chips, switch grass and corn stover as feedstock.(what I would call a first generation pilot plant, as I do not believe they have obtained their goal of a single step process or at least an optimum one. The pilot plant may well serve as a test bed to develop a single component that combines all the steps required to produced cellulosic ethanol.) Mascoma estimated, in December, that it would take 10-12 months to construct the pilot plant and begin operations. Genencor will supply the enzymes for the project based on both their own experience as well as Mascoma's new technologies.
Royal Nedalco, a European ethanol technology leader and producer, and Mascoma signed a license and joint development agreement to further their initiatives to commercialize ethanol production from lignocellulosic biomass. The objective of this technology partnership was to license Nedalco’s yeast-based technology for use in Mascoma’s pilot plant and for use in future Mascoma commercial plants, and to explore collaborative research efforts to accelerate production of second generation bioethanol.
In March they received a $4.9 million dollar contract from DOE for the development of fermentative organisms that speed the conversion of cellulosic biomass into ethanol, making it commercially viable to produce. Mascoma will utilize the funds for a joint project with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, the DOE’s largest science and energy laboratory. "The grant will allow Mascoma to further advance to the point of cost efficient production of cellulosic ethanol in the near term,” said Mascoma CEO Bruce Jamerson.
The firm now has 33 employees. The company's website lists 15 science and engineering job openings between its Cambridge and Lebanon, N.H., locations.
As it always seems, we will have to wait at least a couple of years to see if they can produce what they are hoping for.