Agrivida nets $2M USDA grant for biofuels research

Friday, November 20th, 2009
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Agrivida Inc. has received a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop genetically engineered feedstocks for biofuels production.

The award is the Medford startup’s second in as many months from the federal government. It was one of five Massachusetts companies to receive an Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) award from the U.S. Department of Energy last month. Combined, the awards total $6.5 million.

Agrivida’s plan is to develop new traits in crops that eliminate the need to pretreat and add external enzymes. The USDA award will be used to genetically engineer switchgrass with cell-wall degrading enzymes that are turned on when the crop undergoes processing.

The award is under a $24 million joint USDA/DOE program to advance research in bio-based energy products. USDA funding comes through its National Institute of Food and Agriculture and requires a 20 percent funding match.

Also receiving funding under the program is Hampton Falls, N.H-based Itaconix LLC, which received $2 million to produce polyitaconic acid from Northeast hardwoods. The acid is a polymer that could be used to replace oil-based dispersants, detergents and super-absorbents.