Fungus used for malic acid

A company has developed a fungus that can be used to produce malic acid, for flavour enhancement, from renewable raw materials instead of oil.

The firm, Novozymes with bases all over the world, said materials such as starch from corn or cellulosic biomass from agricultural waste are converted into sugars, just as in the production of biofuels.

These sugars are then transformed into chemical building blocks by enzymes or microorganisms that have been designed specifically for this purpose.

Thomas Videbaek, executive vice president of Novozymes, said: “This is our first biochemical building block and a major milestone towards building a biochemical industry together with partners.

“Oil-based products are all around us, and biochemical produced from renewable raw materials meets a global need for sustainable alternatives. This need is growing due to concerns about crude oil scarcity and price fluctuations”.

The company is currently outlicensing the fungal solution to commercial partners. Malic acid occurs naturally in fruits and many vegetables. In the food and beverage industries, it is key to enhancing sours flavours in items such as jellies, juices and soft drinks.

Novozymes started researching biochemical six years ago and ever since, introduced several projects enabling their sustainable and cost-competitive production.

It is primarily developing the enzymes of microorganisms that enable production of biochemical with partners including Cargill (in the field of acrylic acid processing).

Novozymes estimates that the global market for malic acid, which can also be converted into other chemical derivatives used for plastic, polymer and resin products, is about 60,000t a year. It is worth $130m and is growing at about 4% annually.


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