Claim 1 of Joule Patent 7,794,969:
A method for producing hydrocarbons, comprising:
(i) culturing an engineered cyanobacterium in a culture medium, wherein said engineered cyanobacterium comprises a recombinant acyl ACP reductase (AAR) enzyme and a recombinant alkanal decarboxylative monooxygenase (ADM) enzyme; and
(ii) exposing said engineered cyanobacterium to light and carbon dioxide, wherein said exposure results in the conversion of said carbon dioxide by said engineered cynanobacterium into n-alkanes, wherein at least one of said n-alkanes is selected from the group consisting of n-tridecane, n-tetradecane, n-pentadecane, n-hexadecane, and n-heptadecane, and wherein the amount of said n-alkanes produced is between 0.1% and 5% dry cell weight and at least two times the amount produced by an otherwise identical cyanobacterium, cultured under identical conditions, but lacking said recombinant AAR and ADM enzymes.
One notes there is NO time dimension in the text -- wherein the amount of said n-alkanes produced is between 0.1% and 5% dry cell weight and at least two times the amount produced by an otherwise identical cyanobacterium --
US 7,794,969 was handled under the expedited green technology program, and the publication of the ISSUED patent occurred before the patent application was published. The ten issued claims were as filed, without amendment, although there were two filed composition claims which are are not part of the issued patent.Victoria Slind-Flor, writing for Bloomberg
, noted:The patent was issued only five months after the application was filed. In December, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office set up a program to accelerate the examination of applications for so-called “green” technologies. Previously, the average wait for patents in such areas was 40 months, according to a patent office statement.
Patent 7,704,969, one of 4,898 U.S. patents issued yesterday, covers bioengineered algae that uses sunlight, waste carbon dioxide and water to generate the fuel.
The algae are of the cyanobacteria class of blue-green algae found on earth as long as 3.8 billion years ago. The patent doesn’t specifically identify the organism.
According to a Sept. 14 company statement, the process by which the organism generated biofuel “produces more net energy than it consumes and yields sulfur-free, ultra-clean diesel.” The invention “clears the path for large-scale renewable fuel production,” Joule said in the statement.
Of Slind-Flor's text -- The algae are of the cyanobacteria class of blue-green algae found on earth as long as 3.8 billion years ago. -- cyanobacteria are bacteria, not algae. As noted on wikipedia
, -- According to endosymbiotic theory, chloroplasts in plants and eukaryotic algae have evolved from cyanobacteria [prokaryotes] via endosymbiosis. -- Also from wikipedia: The unicellular cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC6803 was the third prokaryote and first photosynthetic organism whose genome was completely sequenced.
Of Slind-Flor's text -- The patent doesn’t specifically identify the organism. --, examples within the issued patent identify specific cyanobacteria, including 7942 [Synechococcus ]. It is true that claim 1 refers to an --engineered cyanobacterium --.
Of the green technology pilot program at the USPTO, see the IPBiz post
Reality check needed at the USPTO?
Fast tracking of green patent apps not working well?
In the present situation, note that the following issued US patents on engineered cyanobacteria making biofuels were NOT cited in the fast-tracked US Patent 7,794,969: 6,306,639 and 6,699,696 (claim 10 of which recites: A process for producing ethanol according to claim 1 wherein said Cyanobacteria are Synechococcus PCC 7942. ) You won't get this information from the references cited on the '969 patent or from Victoria Slind-Flor.
One does observe wikipedia includes a reference to a "green application" of cyanobacteria
:Inside the transparent PMFC, the cyanobacteria grow in direct contact with a conductive surface, called the anode. When exposed to light cyanobacteria were found to produce an electrical current, where the electrons are moving directly from the cyanobacteria to the anode.
“This study expands our knowledge about possible mechanisms for harnessing solar energy. In the future, the newly discovered physiological activity of cyanobacteria could be utilized for generating green electricity in a fully self-sustainable, CO2-free manner in the absence of any additional organic material,” says Baskakov [Center for Biomedical Engineering and Technology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) ].
The study has been published in the May 25  issue of the journal PLoS One.
***The statement by Joule Breakthrough process overcomes the costs and complexities of biomass-to-fuel
includes:Joule's advances in biology are one critical aspect of the company's integrated Helioculture™ platform, which also incorporates process, materials, photonic and thermal engineering to create an optimal system for the efficient production of fuels and chemicals. Joule's novel SolarConverter™ system has been developed to maximize photon-to-fuel conversion efficiency, and features a modular, scalable design for ease of deployment, dependent only on land and waste CO2 availability. The integrated platform will enable productivities above any other closed-system approach, with a commercial target of 15,000 gallons of diesel per acre annually.
Joule has already proven the direct production of diesel, and will begin pilot production by the end of 2010. The company has also proven the direct production of ethanol via the same process at a rate of 10,000 gallons/acre/year, 40% of its ultimate productivity target, and pilot operations are underway in Leander, Texas.
**The Procaryotes: Archaea and Bacteria
**sciences at UNLV
Bacteria and archaea are prokaryotes, or single-celled microscopic organisms that usually have no nucleus.
Dr. Brian Hedlund is at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington and started his research on hot springs at the University of Regensburg in Germany.
***Update on 27 Feb. 2011:
AP story Mass. company making diesel with sun, water, CO2
which begins:A Massachusetts biotechnology company says it can produce the fuel that runs Jaguars and jet engines using the same ingredients that make grass grow.
Joule Unlimited has invented a genetically-engineered organism that it says simply secretes diesel fuel or ethanol wherever it finds sunlight, water and carbon dioxide.
The Cambridge, Mass.-based company says it can manipulate the organism to produce the renewable fuels on demand at unprecedented rates, and can do it in facilities large and small at costs comparable to the cheapest fossil fuels.
BUTThe doing, though, isn't quite done, and there's skepticism Joule can live up to its promises.
National Renewable Energy Laboratory scientist Philip Pienkos said Joule's technology is exciting but unproven, and their claims of efficiency are undercut by difficulties they could have just collecting the fuel their organism is producing.
Timothy Donohue, director of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says Joule must demonstrate its technology on a broad scale.
Perhaps it can work, but "the four letter word that's the biggest stumbling block is whether it `will' work," Donohue said. "There are really good ideas that fail during scale up."
***UPDATE on 5 April 2011
US 7,794,969 issued from application 12/759,657 filed April 13, 2010. On April 5, 2011, less than one year after the filing of application 12/759,657, US 7,919,303 issued based on application 12/879,862 , a continuation of the '657 case.
The claims of US '303 state:
1. An engineered cyanobacterium, wherein said engineered cyanobacterium comprises a recombinant acyl-ACP reductase enzyme and a recombinant alkanal decarboxylative monooxygenase enzyme; and wherein said cyanobacterium, when cultured in the presence of light and carbon dioxide, produces n-alkanes, wherein at least one of said n-alkanes is selected from the group consisting of n-tridecane, n-tetradecane, n-pentadecane, n-hexadecane, and n-heptadecane, and wherein the amount of said n-alkanes produced is between 0.1% and 5% dry cell weight and at least two times the amount produced by an otherwise identical cyanobacterium, cultured under identical conditions, but lacking said recombinant acyl-ACP reductase and alkanal decarboxylative monooxygenase enzymes.
2. The engineered cyanobacterium of claim 1, wherein said enzymes are encoded by genes which are present in multiple copies in said engineered cyanobacterium.
3. The engineered cyanobacterium of claim 2, wherein said enzymes are encoded by a plasmid.
4. The engineered cyanobacterium of claim 1, wherein said enzymes are encoded by genes which are part of an operon, and wherein the expression of said genes is controlled by a single promoter.
5. The engineered cyanobacterium of claim 3, wherein said enzymes are encoded by genes which are part of an operon, and wherein the expression of said genes is controlled by a single promoter.
6. The engineered cyanobacterium of claim 1, wherein expression of the recombinant acyl-ACP reductase or alkanal decarboxylative monooxygenase enzymes in said engineered cyanobacterium is controlled by a promoter selected from the group consisting of a cI promoter, a cpcB promoter, a lacI-trc promoter, an EM7 promoter, and an aphII promoter.
7. The engineered cyanobacterium of claim 3, wherein expression of the recombinant acyl-ACP reductase or alkanal decarboxylative monooxygenase enzymes in said engineered cyanobacterium is controlled by a promoter selected from the group consisting of a cI promoter, a cpcB promoter, a lacI-trc promoter, an EM7 promoter, and a aphII promoter.
8. The engineered cyanobacterium of claim 1, wherein said engineered cyanobacterium is a thermophile.