LANSING — On Jan. 3, the United States Department of Energy announced that it has awarded Novozymes and MBI International up to $2.5 million to develop new enzyme-based technologies to convert corn stover into sugars for subsequent conversion into biofuels.

Corn stover is the leaves and stalks of corn left in a field after harvest.

Novozymes, a world-leading enzyme company, brings its depth of expertise in enzyme screening and development to the partnership, while MBI brings its innovative AFEX (ammonia fiber expansion) biomass processing technology.

“There are two major challenges in converting agricultural biomass into biobased products,” said Allen Julian, chief business officer of MBI. “One is the challenge of handling, storing and hauling low-density biomass to the refinery, and the other is the challenge of breaking down the biomass cost-effectively into its constituent sugars.”

AFEX technology can be practiced in depots close to the farm, allowing dense biomass pellets to be economically stored and shipped to a distant biorefinery. In addition, AFEX alters the biomass structure so that enzymes can more effectively break the biomass down into fermentable sugars.

The Novozymes-MBI collaboration is aimed at tailoring enzymes for AFEX-treated biomass, which will in turn enable the production of low-cost fermentable sugars. Such non-food biomass sugars can be converted into bio-based fuels, chemicals and other products.

MBI previously won a $4.3 million Department of Energy award to develop and scale up its AFEX technology. Under this project, MBI is currently completing the installation of a 1 ton-per-day pilot-scale AFEX reactor at its Lansing plant.

MBI, established as the Michigan Biotechnology Institute, is a not-for-profit company whose mission is to accelerate the commercialization of bio-based technologies. MBI is affiliated with Michigan State University and is a member of the MSU BioEconomy Network. For more information, visit

Novozymes is a global industrial biotechnology company and world leader in enzymes, microorganisms and biopharmaceutical ingredients. Together with customers across more than 30 industries, the company creates tomorrow’s industrial biosolutions, improving its customers’ business and the use of our planet’s resources. With more than 700 products used in 130 countries, Novozymes’ bioinnovations improve industrial performance and safeguard the world’s resources by offering superior and sustainable solutions for tomorrow’s ever-changing marketplace. Read more at


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