Case Study: Benjamin Woolston, PhD, Northeastern University
Fermentation of waste industrial gas streams is a promising method for producing renewable biofuels and biochemicals, that also cuts greenhouse gas emissions. The microorganisms required for the process are limited by their sensitivity to oxygen, necessitating expensive gas pre-treatment to reduce oxygen to tolerable levels. They also produce a limited scope of products, such as low-value acetic acid and ethanol.
Benjamin Woolston, PhD, Northeastern University, is developing a symbiotic co-culture approach that uses two microbes to overcomes these issues. The method takes advantage of the unique capabilities of each microbe to provide an elegant, simple, and cheap solution to a challenge that has limited the widespread adoption of gas fermentation technology.
MassVentures awarded Dr. Woolston an Acorn Innovation grant earlier this year to collect data to prove the co-culture concept and move closer to commercialization.
“This has been a very exciting project to work on, and the data we have obtained have significantly de-risked the concept and allowed us to take the next steps in seeking sustained follow-on funding from the DOE and NSF—which we wouldn’t have been able to without this initial investment from MassVentures,” says Woolston, adding that the support for his research team has been vital “at this very early and critical phase of my independent career.”