UniQuest has facilitated a research and development contract with US biotech company Viral Genetics, Inc. for University of Queensland (UQ) Associate Professor Ben Hankamer (pictured) to collaborate on an innovative biofuel production system.

VG Energy, a California-based, majority-owned subsidiary of Viral Genetics, sought the world-leading expertise of Associate Professor Hankamer, who is based at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), to optimise the use of its Metabolic Disruption Technology (MDT) compounds in algae lipid production for biofuel production.

Details of the contract’s value and timing are commercial in confidence. However, UniQuest Managing Director, David Henderson, said this was the first R&D project Viral Genetics had contracted with UniQuest to access research within The University of Queensland.

“This contract reflects the confidence that overseas companies like VG Energy have in Australian innovation generally and UQ research particularly. Associate Professor Ben Hankamer is an internationally respected biofuels expert, as well as co-director of the collaborative Solar Biofuels Consortium,” said Mr Henderson.

“High-efficiency microalgal bio-fuels and bio-product production systems represent a rapidly expanding area of biotechnology with global significance.

“UniQuest’s Consulting and Research Division plays a vital role in helping industry access the expertise and resources of world-class university researchers, while at the same time enabling Australian scientists to contribute innovative solutions to global challenges,” he said.

Associate Professor Hankamer’s multi-part study aims to identify the ideal parameters for the use of VG Energy’s MDT compounds. His team will test a selected set of micro-algae strains and the optimum conditions for commercial production.

“One of the exciting aspects of our work with VG Energy is the potential to develop improved processes for solar- driven fuel production,” said Associate Professor Hankamer.

“Establishing sustainable solar fuel production processes could, in-turn, lead to new industries and opportunities for competitive growth within existing industries,” he said.

Associate Professor Hankamer’s research group specialises in photosynthesis, and the development of microalgael biofuel and bio-product systems.

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