Genome Prairie


Turning Waste into Value-Added Resources

Microbes are nature’s top recyclers. Genome Prairie researchers are leading an international collaboration exploring the ability of certain bacteria to convert waste materials such as straw, woodchips and paper into renewable biofuels and biodegradable plastics.  This research is developing new solutions that will help overcome society’s reliance on traditional fuels while minimizing the need for waste landfills. 

The Microbial Genomics for Biofuels and Co-Products from Biorefining Processes (MGCB2) project involves studying the bacterial metabolism and gene structure and function involved in the conversion of waste materials and cellulose to usable products.

The project’s goal is to select and design populations of bacteria with enhanced biosynthetic ability and to enable biorefineries that generate products such as ethanol, hydrogen and components of biodegradable plastics from agricultural and industrial waste.

Research ResultsResearch Results

Together with partners in the United States and New Zealand, MGCB2 researchers have identified and patented several novel bacteria that could be used to create consortia with enhanced abilities to convert waste into energy and fuels. Many of these bacteria are thermophiles that live in extreme conditions such as hot springs and thermal vents, and could have important properties for remediation. The genetic content of those microbes was studied by using genomic sequencing. Subsequent studies and analyses have been conducted to relate gene sequence to protein expression in an effort to gain a better understanding of the utility of particular microbes in the treatment and fermentation of different waste products.

Watch a video with Project Leaders, Dr. David Levin and Dr. Richard Sparling - From the Life Science Association of Manitoba.

Notable OutcomesNotable Outcomes

  • Determined key enzymes for the synthesis of hydrogen and ethanol in 29 sequenced bacteria with biofuels potential.
  • Isolated eight novel bioplastic-synthesizing bacteria, with provisional patent applications submitted for three strains.
  • Achieved the production of acceptable amounts of ethanol and hydrogen through successful co-culture of designer bacterial consortia at the bench level.
  • An evaluation of the Food versus Fuel survey was undertaken to examine economic, legal and environmental issues surrounding biofuels and barriers to industry.

Quick Facts

Project Leaders:

David Levin, University of Manitoba
Richard Sparling, University of Manitoba

Project Manager:

Sherif Louis, Genome Prairie

Project Value: 

$10.6 Million

Genome Canada Contribution:

$4.9 Million

Provincial Funding (MB):

$2.2 Million

Provincial Funding (SK):


Other Funding Partners:

$2.7 Million

Status: (2009-2014)

Competition: Genome Canada Applied Genomics Research in Bioproducts or Crops (2008–09)