Microbial Production of Methyl-ethyl ketone (MEK)
The path to reduced dependence on foreign oil includes development of biofuels and progressive replacement of petrochemistries. With funding from DOE’s Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program, Genomatica, Inc. has announced the effective production of MEK by microbes. MEK and its easily made derivatives have diverse usages in plastics and explosives. MEK also is an industrial cleanser widely used prior to assembly of complex metal assemblies such as aerospace components. MEK can be purified in the same distillation plants already used for ethanol production. Genomatica develops computational models of microbial metabolism, beginning with a microbe’s DNA sequence, that illuminate the microbe’s biochemical repertoire. The models serve to guide genetic engineering of either novel biochemical pathways and/or their optimization for commercial production, including applications to address DOE energy and environmental needs.