Biomass Company Sets Up Shop in High School Lab

Unlike most biotechnology students who have to go to a research facility to see scientists in action, those at Greeneville High just need to turn their heads.

For the last four years, Larry Cosenza, of C2 Biotechnologies, a one-man shop in Germantown, N.Y, has been working in his basement to construct fusion enzymes, a new technology that converts biomass into energy more easily.  But in January, he took over Greeneville High School’s agriculture room, a move that will not only expand his workspace and put him steps closer to commercialization but also encourage project-based learning in the classroom.

In a partnership with the Greene County Industrial Development Agency and Greenville Central School District, Larry established the “Greene Commercial Center” to give students a better understanding of how a laboratory works, new work skills, and an opportunity to learn more about the biotechnology world.

“It’s giving the kids access to real world problems to see how the things they are learning in class are being applied,” he says.

Larry is constructing a single enzyme that can break cellulose into sugars for use in biofuels.  It typically takes a number of enzymes to break cellulose into fermentable sugars, a process that drives up costs for manufacturers. Larry developed a fusion enzyme product that would eliminate this step by combining the multiple enzymatic activities into one protein.

“This seems to be attractive in the industry,” Larry says. “In the near future, bio-manufacturing will be growing. I think there will be a lot of new biologics like this on the market soon. Hopefully, ours will be one of them.”

Once on the market, the technology could simplify a multi-step process in biofuels production and reduce manufacturing costs for companies by almost 30 percent. 

In 2009, Larry received a $100,000 small business innovation research grant from the Department of Energy.

The next step for Larry is obtaining a commercialization partner to get his new product on the market. His ultimate goal is to establish a bio-manufacturing facility in Greene County.