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B.C.’s Hot Springs Could Be Key Player in New Biomaterials

By September 19, 2017No Comments

BC’s forest products industry faces major challenges due to global competition and the decline in demand for traditional products such as newsprint. At the same time, there is increasing demand across the entire economy for environmentally-sustainable biomaterials.

One way to address both of these issues is by converting woody biomass, which includes lignin, to higher valued bioproducts such as renewable fuels, commodity and feedstock chemicals, and biomaterials. A team of researchers at The University of British Columbia (UBC) is working towards identifying new enzymes from BC’s biomass rich hot springs that naturally degrade lignin. These ‘biocatalysts’ could unlock the enormous economic potential of BC’s forest biomass if we can harness them to transform woody biomass in a manufacturing setting.

“We are aiming to discover useful enzymes and use them to develop biocatalysts for lignin conversion,” says Dr. William Mohn, project leader and Professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology at UBC. “We will then work with our industry partners to commercialize this new technology.”

The technologies arising from this project will have the potential to help BC capture a significant share of global markets whose combined value is estimated to grow to $100 billion by 2024.

“One of the most critical uncertainties for the development of biomass-to-sugar technologies is adding value to the lignin residue: this work focuses directly on this problem and is highly aligned with the FPInnovations’s biorefinery strategy,” says Trevor Stuthridge, Executive Vice President at FPInnovations. “More generally, we strongly believe that biocatalysts for the deconstruction and valorization of lignin have significant potential to contribute to the competitiveness and economic benefits of a future-facing Canadian forest industry.”

“Genome BC’s investment into this work will contribute to revitalizing BC’s forest industry,” says Dr. Catalina Lopez-Correa, Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President, Sectors at Genome BC. “Together with academia and industry we are driving sustainability, growth, productivity and global competitiveness.”

This project, valued at $250,000 is funded through Genome BC’s Sector Innovation Program. For more information on Genome BC’s funding programs, visit