Barney, Sarkanen awarded patents

Congratulations to Brett Barney and Simo Sarkanen, faculty in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, who were recently awarded patents for their discoveries.

Barney and graduate students Carolann Knutson and Mary Plunkett were awarded a patent for a genetically-modified diazotrophic microbe and methods involving the same microbe. Diazotrophs are microorganisms that can naturally fix atmospheric nitrogen and produce new nitrogen compounds that can be used by other organisms. Most organisms cannot use atmospheric nitrogen directly. The diazotrophic microbe is modified to excrete a nitrogen-containing compound in a greater amount than a comparable diazotrophic microbe. Then, the genetically-modified diazotroph can be grown with a non-diazotroph to increase the growth of the non-diazotroph.

Sarkanen and team members Yi-ru Chen-Sarkanen and Yun-Yun Wang were awarded a patent for lignin-degrading methods. Lignin is an organic material that gives woody plants their stength, structure, and rigidity and does not easily rot.