Oct 6, 2022
Kristi Snell, Ph.D., Yield10 Bioscience’s Chief Science Officer, presented on advancements in producing PHA bioplastic in Camelina at the recent ISBP2022 conference in Sion, Switzerland. The Yield10 R&D team is working to improve prototype Camelina PHB producing lines to enable commercial levels of PHA production in Camelina seeds.
Yield10’s innovations in synthetic biology and focus on Camelina to deploy novel traits have opened the doors to a world of new possibilities for farmers and industries that are seeking new ways to generate revenue while adopting and aligning with sustainable practices.
With PHA producing Camelina, Yield10 is developing a unique environmental solution that provides the benefits of a cover crop (reduced topsoil erosion and nutrient run off from farmlands) with low-cost large scale agricultural production of biodegradable polymers and seed oil for the global plastics and renewable fuels markets.
PHA’s are a family of naturally occurring biopolymers that can be used to make resin for a variety of applications with differing performance requirements. The resin can be melted and processed into a range of articles such as films, packaging, food service items, etc. The benefit of PHA bioplastics is that they are biobased as well as biodegradable in the environment where they are consumed by microbes in water and soil.
In September 2022, Dr. Snell provided an update in Yield10’s progress to produce PHAs in cover crops in a presentation entitled “Breakthroughs in Plant-based Production of PHB” where she described the successful engineering of a bacterial pathway to produce PHB in Camelina seed. A copy of Dr. Snell’s slide deck is available on the Yield10 Bioscience investor relations website
Yield10 researchers are working diligently to develop robust Camelina lines to produce sustainable, low-cost PHA bioplastic materials in seeds. In a 2019 patent application, Yield10 described a new technology solution for deploying the PHB pathway in Camelina. Using this approach, Yield10 researchers obtained Camelina plants showing up to 10.2 percent PHB in seed that had good emergence and survival in growth chambers. Subsequent field tests with prototype spring Camelina PHB containing lines have shown approximately six percent PHB in the seed in two consecutive years.
In the spring of 2022, Yield10 planted prototype PHA producing spring Camelina at acre-scale and has now harvested the plants for PHB extraction, product prototyping, sampling and other business development activities. Winter varieties of Camelina containing PHA would be an attractive cover crop and Yield10 is investigating the deployment of PHA in winter varieties. In the winter of 2022,Yield10 is conducting field testing of prototype PHA winter Camelina lines to evaluate the production of PHA in the seed under winter field conditions.
According to Dr. Snell, “We have successfully demonstrated proof of concept for producing PHA bioplastics in Camelina seed by leveraging advanced tools in synthetic biology. As we move this program forward, we are pursuing multiple strategies to achieve our goal of reaching PHA yields of 10 to 20 percent in Camelina seed in field grown plants.”
As work to evaluate prototype PHA Camelina plants is underway, the research team is also pursuing development of elite PHA Camelina lines to obtain PHA yields of 10 to 20 percent of the seed weight to reach a production level that will be economically feasible for the production of bioplastic.
In addition, the team is engineering the production of PHA copolymers into Camelina to enable the production of articles with a broad range of properties.
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