Greater Boston Startup Is Using Fermentation To Decarbonize Manufacturing

Photo: Courtesy of Circe Bioscience

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — A startup in the Greater Boston area is working to create a fermentation process that uses carbon dioxide emissions to generate a variety of organic molecules.

Circe Bioscience was founded in 2021 and arose from CEO Shannon Nangle’s work at Harvard University where she focused on engineering microbes to transform carbon dioxide emissions into biodegradable, carbon-based compounds.

“We’re basically taking the powers of plants and animals, putting it into a microbe, and extracting the same molecules that nature makes,” said Nangle.

The goal of the startup is twofold: combatting climate change and creating a nearly unlimited supply of useful products from palm oil to jet fuel.

One of the products the company has been experimenting with is cocoa butter. “The reason chocolate melts in your mouth is because it’s mostly a stick of butter that has some flavor in it. And we can make that butter in the microbe.”

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The fermentation process allows Circe to work with nature “to use those simple and abundant resources as inputs to a modular platform with nearly unlimited scope," shared their website.

To start, Circe is focusing on fats, including oils, which they are planning on generating to be used in food, materials, and fuels.

“So instead of coming from a palm tree or a cacao tree, it’s the same molecule that’s coming from a fermentation process that’s drawing down CO2," explained Nangle.

The startup said they are a few months away from launching their prototype in Waltham where the fermenter is set up.

Recently, Circe signed a worldwide, exclusive licensing agreement coordinated by Harvard’s Office of Technology Development to commercialize their bioproduction technology.

“If we’re able to create a zero-waste, zero-emission, infinitely recyclable system, what can’t we do?”

WBZ NewsRadio's Chaiel Schaffel (@CSchaffelWBZ) reports.

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