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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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Osaka University team finds clue in microbiota for rheumatoid arthritis

Based on extracted DNA samples and shotgun sequencing collected from stool of 82 untreated rheumatoid arthritis patients and 42 healthy subjects, the team of OKADA Toshihiro at Osaka University School of Medicine has found that some species of Prevotella are significantly increased in the microbiome of rheumatoid arthritis patients. It could not be concluded whether the increase of Prevotella is the cause or the result of disease. However, since the stool of patients at an early stage was analyzed, the finding may be used as a risk prediction marker. As there was no significant difference in the metagenomic diversity between patients with rheumatoid arthritis and healthy individuals, dysbiosis did not seem to be related to rheumatoid arthritis.

Nikkei Biotech news release, November 11, 2019

Japanese startups develop “lifestyle guidance AI system” using intestinal environment information

Metagen Co. and MOLCURE Co., two Japanese startups, will established an AI-based system that predicts optimal weight loss using information about an individual’s intestinal environment. The AI ​​system will provide guidance and support for improving lifestyle habits (eating and regular exercise) according to the intestinal environment of the individual.

Metagen (Metabologenomics) is active in microbiome analysis, Molcure onantibody-based libraries for metabolite analysis.

The project is supported by NEDO.

NEDO news release, November 14, 2019

NEDO adopts 7 new themes for regional biomass energy use

In a demonstration project, Tottori Prefecture aims to build a biomass energy utilization energy which does not rely any longer on feed-in tariffs and subsidies. In this project, biomass steam boilers will be installed that use building waste chips as fuel, and waste fungal beds for mushroom cultivation.

In addition, the program includes six Business Evaluation projects:

1. Business feasibility evaluation of an energy supply system in an urban area based on ​​liquefied biomethane derived from livestock manure: Hokkaido Air Water Co.

2. Evaluation of feasibility of local biomass bring-in systems and a smart biomass network: Kitahiroshima-cho, Hiroshima University

3. Evaluation of the feasibility of biomass fuel supply utilizing local production resources such as spent fungus: Chubu Electric Power Co., Sea Energy Co.

4. Feasibility evaluation of increasing yield of methane fermentation utilizing high temperature solubilization treatment and lactic acid fermentation technology, for the spread of on-site small methane fermentation system: Vios Inc., Kyoto University Wakayama

5. Business feasibility of local biomass energy recycling by recycling of glycerin-containing waste liquid: Biofuels Giken Kogyo Co., Yamaguchi University 

6. Evaluation of business feasibility of a dry-type methane fermentation batch system using sugar factory sludge and beef cattle manure as main raw materials: North Soil Development Co.

The overall budget for FY2019 is 1.25 billion yen

NEDO news release, October 29, 2019

NEDO starts biojet fuel feasibility test, focus on supply chain

In addition to establishing integrated production technology for pure bio-jet fuel, supply chain construction including raw material procurement, product supply, commercialization schemes and economic efficiency will be considered in order to promote the realization of such market in Japan. Four themes were adopted, and contractors nominated:

1. Gasification / FT synthesis technology (raw materials are cracked into a gas mainly composed of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, and the desired fuel is produced using a catalyst)

Edison Power Co., JXTG Energy Co., Toyama University

2. Microalgae-based biojet fuel (marine diatom green algae)

Power Development Co.

3. Alcohol to JET (ATJ) technology

Mitsui & Co., JXTG Energy Co., All Nippon Airways Co.

4. HEFA technology (hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids from food waste)

Nippon Steel Engineering Co., Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, Daiki Axis Co.

The budget for FY2019 is 2.4 billion yen

NEDO news release, October 30, 2019

© NEDO Japan

NEDO establishes Bioeconomy Promotion Office, adds bioeconomic unit at Technology Strategic Research Center

The overall strategic goal is “to realize the world’s most advanced bio economy society in 2030”. New budget requests for FY2020 include 2 billion yen for “Development of bio-based production technology that accelerates the realization of carbon recycling”, 850 million yen for “Development of technology related to cellulose nanofibers”  and 1.83 billion yen for the “Plastic Effective Utilization Advancement Project”.

NEDO news release, October 30, 2019

Hitachi Zosen builds CO2-to-methane (methanation) test facility

A test facility for synthesizing methane from CO2 and hydrogen was completed on the Koshijihara plant site of Nagaoka Mine in Niigata Prefecture. Tests and continuous operation will be conducted through the end of 2019. In this test facility, methane is produced by synthesizing CO2 produced during natural gas production at the Koshijihara Plant and hydrogen produced by water electrolysis by Kokusai Oil Development Teishi Co. 

NEDO news release, October 16, 2019

© NEDO Japan

“Spider silk” containing „moon parka” limited edition on sale from Goldwin, Japan

In collaboration with the startup company Spiber https://www.spiber.jp, Japan’s sportswear producer Goldwin has offered a web-based lottery for the purchase of 50 pieces of a ski jacket named “moon parka” made from 3 layers, the outermost one of Spiber’s “spider silk” protein. Price with tax is 150,000 ¥ (about 1260 €). The two companies had already released a limited edition of 250 T-shirts made from 17.5% “spider silk” and 82.5% cotton by weight in June this year. The price was 25,000 ¥ (about 200 €). In November 2018, Spiber had announced the construction of a production plant for its “spider silk” proteins in Rayong, Thailand, operational in 2021.

Spiber news release, August 29, 2019

© Spiber Co.

Showa Chemical Industry adds woody biomass module to plant’s LNG heat generator

Under a contract from NEDO, the company has put into operation in its Okayama plant a woody biomass heat generator, using surplus woody biomass such as bark produced in local areas. Liquid natural gas (LNG) and heat from woody biomass will be used, according to fluctuations in fuel prices and procurement conditions, for the company’s drying process of diatomaceous earth products. By operating the biomass facility stably, fossil fuel consumption is expected to be reduced by 20% throughout the Okayama Plant, and carbon dioxide generation is expected to be reduced by 1,000 tons per year

Showa Chemical news release, September 4, 2019

© Showa Chemical Industry Co.

Japan’s government tries to popularize genome editing by a “BioStation” website

The website https://bio-sta.jp/contains information on latest breeding results and explains in much detail the technology behind these results. Projects include deletion of target genes which result in tomatoes with high GABA content, potatoes without solanine, and red sea bream with enhanced muscle meat (myostatin knock-out). The secretariat of BioStation is located at the Japan Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Food Industry Technology Promotion Association (JATAFF), a public corporation affiliated with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The Japanese government sees genome editing technology as a revolutionary “game changer” that will be a driving force for a future bioeconomy. BioStation is intended to increase public acceptance in order to socially implement genome-edited tomatoes, potatoes, red sea bream, etc. that are about to be put to the markets.

Nikkei Biotech news release, September 9, 2019

COTO LABO consortium strives for better life science data

Eight companies have joined Shimadzu Corporation in an attempt to obtain better reproducible data in the life sciences such as drug-related research. 53 ring tests among these companies had shown that reproducibility of data was indeed low. 8 companies (iPS Portal, Earth Environment Service, NTT DATA, Olympus, Kataoka Manufacturing, Taisei Corporation, Hitachi Industrial Equipment Systems, Shimadzu Corporation) have now initiated this new effort to develop next-generation laboratories where “transparency”, “reproducibility” and “efficiency” of life-science related data will be widely improved.

(COTO = communication tool oriented)

Shimadzu news release, May 30, 2019

NEDO consortium improves microbial bioproduction by AI

In this project, it is planned to build a data infrastructure system for collecting and sharing data which correlate optical and electrochemical sensor data that have not yet been used at bio-production sites (bioproduction management using convolutional data). An AI system will be developed that predicts the optimal culture method hitherto not possible with human experience and intuition, with the aim to establish a method that significantly increases culture efficiency providing a common base for production management in the bioeconomy market.

PI is Chitose Research Institute, contractors are

Ajinomoto Co., Inc. (Food)

Kyowa Hakko Bio Co., Ltd. (food and pharmaceuticals)

Mitsui Chemicals, Inc. (Chemicals)

Kaneka Corporation (Chemicals / Pharmaceuticals)

NRI System Techno Co., Ltd. (System)

Nikon Instech Co., Ltd. (Device)

Nagaoka University of Technology (data acquisition development)

The University of Tokyo (data analysis) 

The Project period is FY2019 up to FY2021

NEDO news release, Sept. 6, 2019

Chitose press release, Sept. 10, 2019

© Chitose Research Institute

Genome editing provides high-sugar content tomatos: Nagoya University

Katsuhiro SHIRATAKE of Nagoya University and coworkers from RIKEN have achieved the development of a high-fructose tomato by disrupting the INVINH gene, encoding an invertase inhibitor. As genome editing tools, a CRISPR / Cas9 vector and Target-AID vector targeting INVINH were used. In some  transformants, the increase in sugar content was up to 2fold.

Lecture at 37th Annual Meeting of the Japanese Society for Plant Cell Molecular Biology in Kyoto, September 8, 2019

Cellulose nanofibers one step closer to wide industrial use: NEDO, Japan

NEDO has announced that acetylated ligno cellulose nanofiber (CNF) show high biodegradability (~90% in the OECD TG301C test), bringing this material closer to wide applications. CNF are cellulose fibers with a diameter of 3 – 10 nm obtained from woody biomass such as bamboo or other wood. They are already produced by companies such as Nippon Paper at a scale of several 100 tons. Through acetylation and continuous melt-kneading, CNF-reinforced resin materials can be produced which show high thermostability and are lighter and stronger than steel. Their CNF component is biodegradable. A CNF-based composite material, Starcel®from Kyoto’s PMC Corp., is already used for the soles of running shoes Gel-Kayano®25 produced by ASICS Co., a major Japanese sport shoes manufacturer with global reach.

NEDO news release, August 8, 2019

NEDO news release, June 1, 2018

JBA’s Bioindustry Award 2019 goes to Kaneka and RIKEN researchers for the development of a PHBH polymer biodegradable on soil and in seawater

The poly-hexanoate-butyrate (PHBH) copolymer is produced by Kaneka from plant oil using a recombinant strain of Cupriavidus necator at a capacity of currently 1,000 tons, with plans to increase production to 5,000  and later to 100,000 tons a year. PHBH materials decompose not only on soil, but also in seawater (90% within 6 months at 30°C) and have obtained the “OK Biodegradable Marine” certificate from TÜV AUSTRIA Belgium NV. The biopolymer-producing strain is based on joint research by Yoshiharu Doi, former Professor of the Tokyo Institute of Technology and Director at RIKEN, and five Kaneka researchers who will share the award of 3 million ¥ (~25,000 €).

JBA news release, July 29, 2019

Mitsubishi’s Life Science Institute (LSI) will start clinical trial on treatment of spinal cord injury with Muse cells

LSI announced that a domestic clinical trial for spinal cord injury in the subacute phase will be started using the Muse cell product “CL2020”.. The company has been conducting clinical trials already for three other diseases, acute myocardial infarction, cerebral infarction, and epidermolysis bullosa, and aims to apply for approval in 2020 and 2021 for any of the four diseases. Muse cells are pluripotent stem cells discovered by Prof. Mari Dezawa of Tohoku University. They occur in mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) of bone marrow and other organs, and they can differentiate into any ectoderm, mesoderm or endoderm. They can be stored through cryopreservation.

Mitsubishi LSI news release, July 10, 2019