DuPont has created a key genetic manipulation that makes an oleaginous yeast (Mortierella alpina) produce large quantities of the enriched fatty acids EPA and DHA in pure form. The genes cause the yeast to produce long-chain omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).
Currently, omega fatty acids are used as dietary supplements for humans and fish (the fish are then processed to extract the oil for humans and other fish). The technology was developed as part of a larger program at DuPont to discover renewable biological feedstocks. The initial application for the technology was as fish food, which is commonly created by capturing and chopping up wild salmon to feed to farmed salmon. This process is unsustainable in the long run. A yeast-fermentation approach should be more cost-effective and much more sustainable.
Unlike EPA and DHA processed from fish meal, the DuPont fermentation technology produces pure fatty acids without the further refining and processing that is necessary with fish meal.
- Renewable sourcing of fatty acids EPA and DHA.
- Dramatically enhances the abilities of oleaginous yeast to produce omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
- Fatty acids are produced via yeast fermentation, not from the capture of wild salmon.
- Yeast fermentation is well understood and industrially scalable.
- Output of the process is pure EPA and DHA.
- Alterations to the yeast can change the phospholipid it produces to allow for other applications or novel molecules.
DuPont’s pilot project was a victim of its own success. The number of fermenters allocated to the project at DuPont were not sufficient to keep up with demand. An organization already in possession of (or willing to invest in) a sufficient number of fermenters could potentially move into a proven market. Some additional processing is necessary in the case of the target yeast, Mortierella alpina; the yeast cells float because of their extreme fat content. Centrifuging recovers about 15% additional fat, which would otherwise be lost in processing. Samples/clones are available for testing.
This technology is supported by 2 US patents.