For decades, lignin has been one of researchers’ most persistent hurdles to a bio-based fuel economy. As the organic polymer that binds plant cell, vessel and fiber cell walls, lignin resists chemical and enzymatic processing and thus acts as a structural barrier to converting biomass into liquid fuels.
When Roche, an innovator in the life sciences market and DNA sequencing, acquired University of Wisconsin startup NimbleGen in 2007 for more than $272 million, it was a tech startup’s dream come true.
In 2014, Roche-NimbleGen licensed the novel Switchgrass Exome Capture Chip technology developed by Dr. C. Robin Buell and her team at Michigan State University’s Department of Plant Biology, in collaboration with Dr. Kaeppler at U Wisconsin Madison. Buell’s lab researches the genome biology of plants, working on a number of crop species for food, feed, fodder and biofuels.