Lignocellulosic biomass is the feedstock for the second generation bioethanol and pulp and paper industry. Lignocellulosic biomass is composed of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. Removing and handling of lignin has great commercial potential in bioethanol and paper & pulp industry. Laccases are also used as cleaning agents for waste water purification systems.
Due to the fact that MetGen Laccases are recombinant and genetically engineered, they are affordably priced, feasible to produce in multi-ton amounts and adopted to harsh industrial conditions.
MetGen Laccase Enzymes solve the following challenges in various Cleantech applications:
- Second generation bioethanol: decreasing production costs of bioethanol from cellulosic waste - laccase treatment can increase bioethanol yield 2-2.7 times
- Pulping : energy saving during pulping process and decreased consumption of bleaching reagents
- Waste water cleaning: purification of water from phenolic compounds and lignin - laccase treatment of phenolic compounds is unique way to decrease "hard COD" and therefore strong differentiating factor for waste water treatment companies
Founded in 2008, Finland-based MetGen develops enzymes with applications within a range of industries, including biofuel production and waste water treatment. The company's management team brings experience from previous roles in start-up development, bioengineering and cleantech-focused venture capital, as well as from leadership positions within international life science companies. To date, the company has received €1m funding, with the founders comprising the major shareholders. The company is currently in talks with a number of industrial customers.
Metgen is planning to raise €4m in equity over the next six months. The company believes that this will offer a return on investment of over 30% within three to five years.
MetGen develops and produces genetically modified laccases, 'eco-friendly' enzymes that break down lignin. Naturally-occurring laccases are expensive to produce in industrial quantities and unsuited to harsh industrial conditions, where they may be exposed to high temperatures and fluctuations of pH level. The company's 'metzyme laccase' is thermostable (up to 80 degrees Celsius), pH tolerant (from pH 3 to 9) and cost-effective, making them suitable for use in industrial applications. Use of this technology leads to energy saving during the pulping process in paper manufacturing, reduced costs and improved yield in production of bioethanol from cellulosic waste and purification of water from phenolic compounds and lignin. The technology has been successfully trialled at a large pulp and paper mill, said the company. MetGen estimates that its technology will enable paper mills to save up to €3m on reduced energy consumption each year, with no capital investment or process change required. Preparation is currently under way for the first patent application.
Metgen plans to use new funding to commercialise its pulp enzyme, strengthen its sales force and accelerate the development of its technology for the biofuel sector. This will initially involve developing an enzymes for use In the delignification stage of biofuel production that is heat stable, tolerant to extreme pH levels and with high catalytic efficiency. Work has started on this, with initial field trials underway. On completion of this process, the company will then develop enzymes for the treatment of domestic sewage or industrial waste. The company ultimately plans to undertake direct customer sales of enzymes customised to fit the specific demands of a given chemical process, and has targets of producing two new enzymes per year. Metgen envisages exiting through a trade sale to a global industrial enzyme or biofuel producer within the next three to five years.