MetGen founders began with the consideration that enzymes could be designed through genetic modification to more effectively breakdown biomass. After years of work, the company has produced an enzyme solution that addresses the needs of biofuel and biorefinery, as well as benefitting the pulp and paper industry, and waste-water treatment.
Enzymes are proteins that accelerate chemical reactions without being used in the reaction itself. MetGen has developed a proprietary technology platform to modify enzyme's properties through mutations of their amino acid sequence. Enzymes can be modified to increase their activity and fit conditions required by industry (pH, temperature, solvent tolerance). An intelligent design of mutations is introduced within the sequence and the various mutants in industrial conditions are subsequently screened. The resulting MetGen enzymes, MetZymes™, can withstand the harsh conditions of industrial production and aid cleaner, more effective biofuel production process. MetZymes™ are complementary to other enzymes and breakdown biomass faster and more effectively, at less cost and with less environmental impact than natural enzymes. But the development also benefits other areas of the Cleantech sector. When used in pulp and paper industry MetZymes™ allow significant energy savings and greener sustainable operations. Current methods of water purification remain unsatisfactory, with phenol levels remaining high after processing, but MetZymes™ can be used to break down harmful phenolic compounds in industrial waste waters cheaply and effectively.
MetGen was created in 2006 by entrepreneurs, Alex Michine and Dr Alex Azhayev. Over the last eight years, their small and highly specialised team of scientists have been working on MetZymes™; genetically modified enzymes that can be used to accelerate and improve the production of biofuel.
In 2008, 70% of the total processing costs in global biofuel production were taken up with breaking down biomass. Major corporations were spending millions on research into improving methods of pretreatment. The idea behind MetGen, is to reduce production costs, organic waste, negative environmental impact and energy consumption at the refining step of biofuel production using tailored enzymes.
Support from TEKES made MetGen's initial research possible, but it has gathered increasing support from funding bodies and capital investors. In recent years, the company has enjoyed investment from the independent venture capital firm, Sofinnova, with its Green Seed Fund raising a total of €2.2 million for the enterprise last year. The venture also receives funding from Finnish Industry Investment Ltd, a government-owned investment company which promotes Finnish business, employment and economic growth through venture capital and private equity investments. Other investors include Emerald Technology Ventures and government-run Finnvera.
The company won the Eurecan European Venture Contest in 2010, and its prestige has accelerated ever since. Last year, the Global Cleantech 100 list recognized MetGen as one of the top private companies in Clean Technology. The year before, the company was selected as one of the top ten Nordic cleantech companies by The Nordic Cleantech Open.
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