DENSO partners with Euglena Corp. on micro algae R&D

Within a comprehensive alliance for business development of microalgae, both companies will cover 1. Development of biofuels business (“Green Oil Japan”), 2. R&D of micro algae culture technology, 3. Use of algae for foods and cosmetics, and 4. Production of...

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7-9 Ministry of Agriculture inks major programs on biotech

Within its biotech-related 74 billion Yen (about 570 million €) budget for FY2022, the ministry aims to strengthen production capacity and improve sustainability of the domestic agriculture, forestry, and fisheries industries. Topics include:

  • low-temperature storage systems for tea leaves and late-season tea varieties
  • technologies for early egg collection, artificial seedling cultivation and aquaculture of eel and bluefin tuna,
  • technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production. Development of technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production, including breeding methods to produce low-methane cattle
  • powerful red tide response technology for fish and shellfish farming including red tide-resistant cultured fish
  • technology to cope with damage caused by invasive alien species, including technology using environmental DNA,
  • technology for carbon sink measures in agriculture, forestry and fisheries, e. g., technology for production and utilization of wood lignin-derived plastics
  • green biotechnology industry using silkworm technology 
  • projects to realize food and dietary habits to extend healthy life expectancy
  • crop varieties using genome editing technology

Nikkei Biotech news release, September 7, 2021

27-8 Secure storage of genome analysis data by quantum cryptography

Toshiba and others explore a system to store personal genetic data from projects of the Tohoku Medical Megabank Organization (ToMMo) using a combination of quantum cryptography communication technology and secret distribution technology. The consortium has successfully conducted a demonstration experiment to distribute large-scale human genome analysis data to multiple locations for safe backup storage.

Nikkei Biotech news release, August 27, 2021

27-8 Grillus, a startup on edible crickets for human nutrition

Grillus is a startup from the University of Tokushima that produces edible crickets and sells cricket-derived as „circular food“. Basic technology consists of mass production of a highly uniform albino strain of the Dipterocarpus cricket, which has been maintained at the University of Tokushima for generations. The crickets are then dried and grinded providing a highly nutritious powder of about 70% protein and 20% fat. Flavor comes from the aroma produced during the drying process. Presently, the company offers 3 products:

  1. “cricket ramen” made from crickets at a ramen restaurant in Tokyo
  2. “cricket miso ramen” made from crickets and miso at a ramen restaurant in Tokushima Prefecture, and 
  3. “cricket rice crackers” with a shrimp-like flavor produced by MUJI Co.

The company is also considering to develop genome-edited crickets with improved taste, reduced allergens, strains that can be bred at high density, strains with a regulated metabolic system for functional components, and strains with higher nutritional value, e.g., increased content of specific amino acids.

Nikkei Biotech news release, August 27, 2021

© Nikkei Biotech

26-8 Japanese consortium achieves solar hydrogen production on 100 m2 scale

A consortium of ARPChem, Fujifilm, TOTO, Mitsubishi Chemicals and the University of Tokyo, supported by NEDO, has installed and operated, since August 2019, a demonstrator for photocatalytic water splitting and succeeded in separating and recovering high-purity „solar hydrogen“ from the mixture of hydrogen and oxygen generated by water decomposition. The system consists of a photocatalytic panel reactor  connected so that it has a light-receiving area of 100m2 and a gas separation module with a built-in separation membrane. The top of this reactor is made of transparent glass and a strontium titanate photocatalyst sheet. There is a small gap of 0.1 mm between the photocatalyst sheet and the glass through which water is supplied for the reaction. The strontium titanate photocatalyst uses sunlight UV for water splitting, with a quantum yield of almost 100%. It is manufactured by spraying photocatalyst onto the substrate. The gas separation module can maintain stable gas separation by properly controlling the gas flow rate regardless of sunlight conditions, and was operated outdoors for 65 days without losing its functionality. In addition, due to the proper design of the photocatalytic reaction system, there was no spontaneous ignition or explosion during the outdoor test. In a separate project, catalysts and process technologies are being developed to synthesize C2 to C4 olefins from hydrogen produced from this module and carbon dioxide emitted from power plants and factories.

1. NEDO news release, August 28, 2021

2. Nishiyama, H., Yamada, T., Nakabayashi, M. et al. Photocatalytic solar hydrogen production from water on a 100 m2-scale. Nature (2021).

© NEDO Japan

16-8 Promising ventures in Japan: The University Venture Award 2021

Japan’s Science and Technology Agency JST and NEDO, project house of the Ministry of Economics, Trade and Industry, offer an annual award to startups, financially supported by companies. The 2021 prize was awarded to

  1. Heartseed Co.

Heartseed, a spin-off of Kyoto University, develops cardiac regeneration medicine for severe heart failure, using iPS cells. The company has established a method for mass producing cardiomyocytes from allogenic tissue, supplied by the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application CiRA in Kyoto. A clinical trial for Phase 1/2 study obtained permission in March 2021, and will start later this year. On June 1, 2021 Heartsed announced that it has entered into an exclusive technology collaboration and license agreement with Novo Nordisk of Denmark for its allogenic cardiomyocytes. The reward is supported by Ajinomoto which has optimised the medium to culture the cardiomyocytes.

2. Regional Fish Co. 

The company, a spin-off of Kyoto University, aims to revolutionize Japan’s fisheries industry through the combination of accelerated fish breeding, based on genome editing, and smart, land-based aquaculture. For the latter aspect, it is supported by Ebara Co., a pump company.

3. OriCiro Co. 

The company, supported by Rikkyo University, is focused on DNA synthesis and amplification technology based on amplifying long DNA strands without using cells. Its in vitro complete reconstitution system of genome replication cycles uses purified proteins and is claimed to be the only company in the world that can amplify genome-size long DNA strands as cyclic molecules, e.g., for the use in synthetic biology.

4. Raputya Robotics Co. 

The company, supported by ETH Zurich, develops cloud computing platforms for robots and is based on the vision that within 5 years, 10% of all robots globally will be connected to their control platform. Industrial support is from Monoful Co. which provides robotics solutions and develops a cloud robotics platform.

5. Matrixome Co. 

The company, a spin-off of Osaka University, commercializes and sells laminin E8 fragment proteins, which are useful substrates for cell culture as surface-cultured pluripotent cells of clinical grade can be easily removed from this protein-engineered surface. Industrial support is from Nippi Co., which produces these surface proteins.

6. RTI-cast Co. 

The company is a spin-off of Tohoku University and develops a Tsunami disaster information system that immediately predicts tsunami inundation damage at the time of an earthquake based on supercomputer terrain modelling and crustal movement observation. Industrial partners are Kokusai Kogyo, NEC, and EITO.

15-7 Japan plans for „dramatic expansion of fuel cell technology“

The program supported by METIs project house NEDO looks for an implementation in 2030 and beyond, but has organized another industry-academia consortia to improve fundamental technologies related to SOFC and PEFC fuel cells. It runs from FY2020 – FY2024 (planned), with a FY2021 budget of 6.67 billion yen (50 million €). The targets are

  • 6 projects on separator technologies
  • 7 projects on non-platinum electrocatalysis 
  • 4 projects on improved hydrogen storage
  • new applications of fuel cells in agriculture, coastal vessels, drones etc.

A detailed list of projects and project partners is available.

NEDO news release, July 15, 2021

14-7 Novo Nordisk takes license from Heartseed Japan for iPS-derived cardiomyocytes

Heartseed has granted Novo the exclusive rights to develop, manufacture, and sell HS-001, regenerated cardiomyocytes derived from heterologous iPS cells in the world except Japan. In Japan, Heartseed will continue to develop the product independently, while retaining the rights to develop, manufacture and market it. After obtaining approval, Heartseed will market the product jointly with Novo’s Japanese subsidiary. License fees may add up to up to 65.5 billion yen (500 million €). In the second half of 2021, HeartSeed plans to start a domestic Phase 1/2 clinical trial (LAPiS trial) for severe heart failure caused by ischemic heart disease as a corporate trial.

Nikkei Biotech news release, July 14, 2021

7-7 Japan’s NEDO adopts 14 projects for the bio-production of useful chemicals

The project titles and the responsible project coordinators are

1. Demonstrator for agrochemical active natural products produced by filamentous fungi with improved productivity  Meiji Seika Pharma Co.

2. Demonstrator for implementation of infection control technology using super heat-resistant protease Saraya Co., Osaka University

3. Demonstrator for bio-isopropanol production using Corynebacteria RITE Green Earth Institute Co.

4. Demonstrator for the microbial production of glycyrrhetinic acid and its analogues Sumitomo Chemical Co., Osaka University

5. Demonstrator for production of an antibacterial cyclic lipopeptide by Bacillus species Kaneka Corporation

6. Development of an efficient bio-production method for imidazole dipeptides okai Bussan Co., Waseda University

7. Automated production system for health food additive 10-hydroxy-cis 12-octadecenoic acid HYA®50 Noster Co.

8. Demonstrator for a second generation sugar production system in a paper mill Mitsubishi Paper Mills, Inc.

9. Development of a new wastewater treatment process that enables biomethanation and biofuel production Taisei Corporation, Saitama University, Chubu University, Kazusa DNA Research Institute

10. Demonstrator for a highly integrated sugar production system using epigenetic metabolic conversion technology ACPLANTA Corporation, NTokyo Institute of Technology, Takasaki University of Health and Welfare

11. High-yield production technology of oxidized Glutathione by E. coli fermentation Kaneka Corporation

12. Demonstrator for high-efficiency production of human long-chain ceramide Fukuoka Soy Sauce Brewing Cooperative

13. Mass production system for Potato Cysticercus Hatchery Promoter (PCN-HF) HOKUSAN CO.

14. Development of fermentation technology for polyamide raw materials Toray Industries, Inc.

The projects will run for a maximum period of 5 years, with a budget (including self-financing) of 20 – 100 million JP¥ per year (100 million JP¥ is about 7.7 million €)

NEDO news release, July 7, 2021

6-7 NEDO tests Net Zero energy building in Yamagata

With Japan Groundwater Development Co., and General Heat Pump Industry Co. as contractors, NEDO had built a demonstration facility as „ZEB” (zero-emission building) in Yamagata City, Yamagata Prefecture, to verify the ZEB adaptability of a total heat supply system that utilizes high-efficiency aquifer heat storage.

Number of floors 2 floors above ground

Building area 285 qm

Total floor area 562.5 qm

Steel structure

Air-conditioning load 64 W / qm

Heating load 35 W / qm

The building uses a 30.7 kW solar power generation facility and a solar water heater as energy creation, the wall thickness has been increased to 300mm to enhance the heat insulation effect. The ventilation system is a total heat exchange system, and the lighting is LED lighting. In addition, an external blind that blocks up to 82% of solar radiant heat is additionally installed on the southwest window. By making the vacuum tube type solar water heater an antifreeze circulation type, it is not easily affected by the outside air temperature, and it is expected that it will exhibit a certain heat collecting capacity even in winter when the sun comes out.

NEDO news release, July 6, 2021

© NEDO Japan

2-7 University of Tokyo team edits chloroplast genome of a plant using procedures not subject to Cartagena law regulation

Shinichi Arimura and colleagues have used a TALEN tool for genome editing developed in Japan. The gene encoding a citidine deaminase (CD) is linked to the TALEN domain, and  a gene encoding for delivery to the chloroplast is ligated. Using this method, single nucleotide substitutions at the target site of a chloroplast genome could be achieved in all chloroplasts with 1000 copies per cell. Furthermore, in subsequent generations, no segrigants containing foreign genes were observed. Genome modification of chloroplasts has been possible since around 1990 through introducing genes by a particle gun. However, molecular breeding that is not regulated by the Cartagena Law had not yet been realized.

Nikkei Biotech news release, July 2, 2021

1-7 Demonstration plant for manufacturing materials from PEG-modified lignin

Based on technology of the Forest Research Institute, the plant will be operated by a consortium consisting of seven companies, including Ligno Materia (Shinjuku, Tokyo, President Zenji Miura). A method was developed for extracting lignin using polyethylene glycol (PEG) and acid. As a result, “glycol lignin” in which PEG is bound to lignin is produced. Modified lignin refers to this glycol lignin. The advantage is that the binding of PEG makes it easier to process by heat and the stability after processing is also high. In addition, by using Japanese conifer trees (Sugi), which have a uniform lignin composition, it is believed that the problematic composition variation can be eliminated. According to experts, the annual consumption of plastics in Japan is about 10 million tons, while the annual production capacity of modified lignin calculated from the growth of sugi forests in Japan is more than 2 million tons.

Nikkei Biotech news release, July 1, 2021

© Forest Research Institute

22-6 NEDO tests ship transport of liquefied captured CO2 for later underground storage

In this project on CO2 capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS), research and development on liquefaction and storage systems for CO2 suitable for long-distance and mass transportation will be done. From around the end of fiscal 2023, the project will verify the technologies necessary for the operation and management of an integrated transport system in which CO2 emitted from a coal-fired power plant in Maizuru City, Kyoto Prefecture, on an annual scale of 10,000 tons will be liquefied at a shipping terminal, transported by ship, and received at a terminal in Tomakomai City, Hokkaido. This is expected to be the world’s first demonstration test of marine transportation of liquefied CO2 for the purpose of CCUS.

Project period: FY2021 – FY2026 (planned)

Budget: 16 billion yen (planned) (equivalent to 100 million €)

NEDO news release, June 22, 2021

© NEDO Japan

18-6 Nihon Shokubai develops catalyst for hydroxycarbonylation

Formic acid can be prepared through hydrogenation of CO2. The hydroxycarbonylation reaction of alkenes using formic acid has conventionally been catalyzed by a rhodium complex, Rh2Cl2(CO)4, and additives, triphenylphosphine (PPh3) and methyl iodide (CH3I), which have high environmental impact and toxicity, and p-toluenesulfonic acid hydrate (p-TsOH, H2O), which promotes the decomposition of formic acid. Under a contract from NEDO, the company has developed an improved catalyst, RhHI2(CO)(PPh3)2 in acetic acid, a safe and environmentally friendly for the synthesis of carboxylic acids in acetic acid as solvent. As a model reaction, ydroxycarbonylation of cyclohexene was studied.

NEDO news release, June 18, 2021

© Nihon Shokubai Co.

18-6 NEDO aviation fuel produced from wood waste and microalgae supplied to scheduled flights

NEDO has commissioned Mitsubishi Power, JERA Corporation, Toyo Engineering, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) for the development of fuel production technology using wood waste as raw material, and IHI Corporation for fuel production technology using microalgae as raw material, within a “Biojet Fuel Production Technology Development Project. The fuel is produced either by gasification of solid woody cellulose, or by hydrogenation refining technology of oil derived from microalgae, both of which have been confirmed to conform to ASTM D7566, the international standard for aviation fuel. Based on the results of the NEDO project, fuel completed with both technologies was supplied to regular flights departing from Tokyo International Airport (Haneda Airport).

[1] Fuel produced from wood waste

Date: June 17, 2021

Flight number: Japan Airlines Flight 515

Segment: Tokyo International Airport to New Chitose Airport

Aircraft: Airbus A350-900

Fuel used Approx. 8,700l

2] Fuel produced from microalgae

(1) Date: June 17, 2021

Flight number: Japan Airlines Flight 515

Segment: Tokyo International Airport to New Chitose Airport

Aircraft: Airbus A350-900

(2) Date: June 17, 2021

Flight name: All Nippon Airways Flight 031

Segment: Tokyo International Airport to Osaka International Airport (Itami Airport)

Aircraft: Boeing 787-8

NEDO news release, June 18, 2021