A University of Queensland associate professor will collaborate with a US biotech company on an innovative biofuel production system, thanks to an R&D contract facilitated by UniQuest.
UniQuest, established by the university almost 30 years ago, is widely regarded as one of Australia’s largest and most successful university commercialisation groups.
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Since 2000, UniQuest and its start-ups have raised more than $450 million to take university technologies to market. Its latest achievement centres on UQ Associate Professor Ben Hankamer.
UniQuest has facilitated an R&D contract with US biotech company Viral Genetics, Inc. for Hankamer to collaborate on an innovative biofuel production system.
VG Energy, a California-based, majority-owned subsidiary of Viral Genetics, sought out the expertise of Hankamer, who is based at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB).
The company is keen 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 says this is the first R&D project Viral Genetics has contracted with UniQuest to access research within the university.
“This contract reflects the confidence that overseas companies like VG Energy have in Australian innovation generally and UQ research particularly,” Henderson says.
“Associate Professor Ben Hankamer is an internationally respected biofuels expert, as well as co-director of the collaborative Solar Biofuels Consortium.”
“High-efficiency microalgal biofuels and bio-product production systems represent a rapidly expanding area of biotechnology with global significance.”
Hankamer’s multipart study aims to identify the ideal parameters for the use of VG Energy’s MDT compounds.
His team will test a selected set of microalgae strains and the optimum conditions for commercial production.
The group specialises in photosynthesis, and the development of microalgael biofuel and bio-product systems.
“One of the exciting aspects of our work with VG Energy is the potential to develop improved processes for solar-driven fuel production,” Hankamer said in a statement.
“Establishing sustainable solar fuel production processes could, in turn, lead to new industries and opportunities for competitive growth within existing industries.”
According to Henderson, UniQuest’s consulting and research division plays a vital role in helping industry access the expertise and resources of world-class researchers.
“At the same time, [it is] enabling Australian scientists to contribute innovative solutions to global challenges,” he said.