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Instead of lead into gold, how about greenhouse gas into chocolate and jet fuel?

A spinout from Harvard's Wyss Institute announced today it's now licensing its microbe-based system to turn carbon dioxide into a component of a variety of foods and other substances, including chocolate.

Circe Bioscience of Somerville bioengineers microbes to take in carbon dioxide and convert that into more complex molecules, such as triglycerides, a building block of butters and other food substances - including cocoa butter, with which the company says it was able to build some chocolate. Microbes could also turn out materials for substances currently derived from oil, including plastics and aviation fuel.

According to the Wyss Institute, company co-founders Shannon Nangle and Marika Ziesack:

Used synthetic biology to tweak the metabolisms of certain microbes that naturally “eat” greenhouse gasses so that they use those gases to manufacture molecules that are valuable to many industries. Their platform has produced molecules identical to those that make up sugars, fats, biodegradable plastics, and biofuels, all using only CO2, water, and electricity as inputs.

The company says this gas-fermentation process could be a step towards decarbonizing key parts of the economy, because vats of microbes can churn out substances that are "molecularly identical to those found in nature with a fraction of the energy, land, and resources used in conventional manufacturing."

The company says it could get the required carbon dioxide by co-locating its fermenting vats and processing systems at facilities that normally belch carbon dioxide into the air, which could range from a craft brewery to a power plant.



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This is not unlike what Boston's Ginkgo Bioworks originally promised years ago, they were going to do rare organic ingredients for perfumes among other things.

As they have discovered, it's *much* more difficult than it sounds.

Good luck to Circe, they seem to have nicely nailed up the PR thing early.


is best known for her ability to turn men into swine by giving them potions. I suppose you could go the bioscience route to achieve this, but wouldn’t it be easier to just open a bar?


…. being able to grow human organs on those pigs could be a game changer.

I understood that reference. @Sam Wack

I don't normally worry about small typos, but "coca butter" suggests cocaine rather than chocolate.