Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation

Clean Technology
Clean Technology
Microbes Produce High Yields of Fatty Alcohols from Glucose
WARF: P140076US02

Inventors: Brian Pfleger, J. Tyler Youngquist

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is seeking commercial partners interested in developing a method to produce fatty alcohols for biofuel and specialty chemicals using genetically engineered microorganisms.
Fatty alcohols are used in detergents, emulsifiers, lubricants and personal care items. More than 1.3 million tons of fatty alcohols are used worldwide each year, representing a $3 billion market.

Currently, fatty alcohols are produced either through the processing of natural fats and oils or from petrochemicals. As both routes require biodiesel or petrochemical fuel stocks, microbial production of fatty alcohols from renewable sugars is a promising alternative.

To be economically competitive, microorganism-based methods must boost titers and yields.
The Invention
UW–Madison researchers have developed a method to produce fatty alcohols such as 1-dodecanol and 1-tetradecanol from glucose using genetically engineered microorganisms. The organism, e.g., a modified E. coli strain, overexpresses several genes (including FadD and a recombinant thioesterase gene, acyl-CoA synthetase gene and acyl-CoA reductase gene). Other gene products are functionally deleted to maximize performance.

The strain is cultured in a bioreactor in the presence of glucose.
  • Production of fatty alcohols for biofuels (e.g., jet fuel) or specialty chemicals
Key Benefits
  • Some of the highest yields ever reported using E. coli and glucose
  • Other organisms such as yeast or Gram-positive bacteria may be used.
Stage of Development
The modified E.coli strain is capable of generating yields higher than 0.13 grams of fatty alcohol per gram of consumed glucose.

The development of this technology was supported by WARF Accelerator. WARF Accelerator selects WARF's most commercially promising technologies and provides expert assistance and funding to enable achievement of commercially significant milestones. WARF believes that these technologies are especially attractive opportunities for licensing.
Additional Information
For More Information About the Inventors
  • Youngquist J.T., Schumacher M.H., Rose J.P., Raines T.C., Politz M.C., Copeland M.F. and Pfleger B.F. 2013. Production of Medium Chain Length Fatty Alcohols from Glucose in Escherichia coli. Metabolic Engineering. 20, 177-186.
For current licensing status, please contact Jennifer Gottwald at [javascript protected email address] or 608-960-9854