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MSU startup options plant genetics technology

Dr. Kyung-Hwan Han, a professor in MSU’s Department of Horticulture, has partnered with the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center to unlock the genetic regulators of cellulose biosynthesis in plants.

Han’s startup company, Kopess Biomass Solutions, was formed with assistance from the MSU Innovation Center; the company has optioned his discovery.

The MSU technology developed by Dr. Han provides a genetic means to regulate the biosynthesis of cellulose in plants. Han and his team discovered five direct regulators of the cellulose synthase genes and have demonstrated these regulators activate the expression of cellulose synthases in vitro. The regulators can then be used to genetically up-regulate secondary wall cellulose synthase genes and increase cellulose biosynthesis. 

This translates to faster growing trees and more biomass per acre.

Han holds nearly a dozen patents, and he was awarded a grant from the Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) Innovation Hub for AgBio, which funds innovations that have the potential to create superior value-added products and materials to businesses in the AgBio industry.

MTRAC is funded by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation with matching funds from MSU. The $2.27 million program is designed to create and support translational research prior to industry commercialization and formation of high-tech startups by giving them access to a variety of critical resources, such as funding and expert counsel, from ideation to maturation.

MTRAC has benefitted both MSU faculty and the mid-Michigan region. The program supports the translation of cutting-edge research out of the university and into innovative companies such as Han’s Kopess Biomass Solutions that have potential for high-growth and job retention, and promotes a culture of innovation, discovery and entrepreneurship in Michigan.