DISCO- Targeted DISCOvery of novel cellulases and hemicellulases and their reaction mechanisms for hydrolysis of lignocellulosic biomass.

Lignocellulose is a complex of carbohydrate polymers (cellulose and hemicellolose) tightly bound to lignin, and is a major constituent of a wide variety of materials including waste materials from agriculture, forestry, wood-based industries, and municipal solid waste

Project summary

The aims of the DISCO project are to develop more efficient and cost-effective enzyme tools to produce bioethanol from lignocellulosic biomass, and understand how these enzymes work.

Lignocellulose is a complex of carbohydrate polymers (cellulose and hemicellolose) tightly bound to lignin, and is a major constituent of a wide variety of materials including waste materials from agriculture, forestry, wood-based industries, and municipal solid waste. These materials are produced in abundance, and represent a good option for conversion to bioethanol because they are renewable and so carbon dioxide released during combustion is assimilated when new biomass is produced.

To date exploitation has been challenging because of the nature of the raw material. The densely compacted and complex structure of lignocellulose, whilst making plants and trees tough, also makes it very resistant to degradation. It must be broken down into much simpler sugar molecules, which can then be fermented into bioethanol. The DISCO project aims to find novel enzymes which can perform both the breakdown and fermentation steps more efficiently than at present, perhaps using completely new modes of action. The enzymes will also be recyclable, so further increasing efficiency in the process.

The most promising enzymes will be tested in a pilot scheme using the most relevant European material, softwood and wheat straw. As well as enzyme discovery, the project will look to better understand the enzyme reactions and what limits their rate.

The project is funded under the 'Food, agriculture and fisheries, and biotechnology' Theme of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). 

The DISCO project is part funded by the Seventh
Framework Programme for research and technological
development (FP7), the European Unionīs chief
instrument for funding research over the period 2007 to 2013.