Infinite Enzymes Wins USDA SBIR Funding for Biofuel Production

April 6th, 2016 by Sarah Ricard

Jonesboro-based Infinite Enzymes has been selected for a U.S. Department of Agriculture Small Business Innovation Research Phase I award to develop seed-based lipase and phospholipase production for enzymatic biodiesel.

Infinite Enzymes is a biotech company founded in 2006. Dr. Elizabeth Hood is CEO of Infinite Enzymes and Distinguished Professor of Agriculture at Arkansas State University. She was inspired to start her own company after previously working for a biotechnology company that produced industrial enzymes.

“When that company was sold, the technology was mostly shelved. An opportunity arose to commercialize some of those products we had worked on, so we started our company to continue with those projects,” said Hood.

Infinite Enzymes has been a client of the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center since 2007. The company has won multiple USDA SBIR awards, including a Phase II in 2012.

“The ASBTDC provided industry market studies which we were able to incorporate into this winning Phase I proposal,” said Hood.

Dr. Elizabeth Hood CEO, Infinite Enzymes

Dr. Elizabeth Hood

Hood says this award will enable the Infinite Enzymes team to “manufacture the enzymes for making biodiesel from waste oils and fats.” Since the company currently uses an enzyme manufacturing system with corn kernels, she added, “We will be testing our tools for making the enzymes to make sure they work for these new products.”

She has found that the biggest barrier to market entry is finding a customer who is willing to initiate the enzymatic process rather than the chemical process.

Infinite Enzymes has long-term visions to address commercial needs for biodiesel manufacture using enzymes on a national and potentially global scale.

“Our enzyme production system is very scalable in that planting more acres will increase the supply of enzymes. We believe this is the most environmentally friendly system for the manufacture of biodiesel and it makes best use of the feedstock supplies. The current problem with enzymatic biodiesel is the price of the enzymes, and we believe we can manufacture these for a competitive price,” said Hood.

Hood envisions the final version of the lipase and phospholipase enzymes being available for sale in bulk formulations to customers who are biodiesel manufacturers. “We want to retain production control because of the genetics of our corn lines. The genetics are our value proposition and we want to make sure the production is done under USDA guidelines,” she said.

SBIR Road Tour: Hear More from Infinite Enzymes in Person

Dr. Hood will be a panelist at the SBIR Road Tour in the first afternoon session. Be sure to stay after lunch to hear more about this team and its experiences with SBIR.

Read the Infinite Enzymes award abstract