Dairy residue bio-conversion into designer (D)-lactic acid

PI: Timothy Donohue


Donohue is a is Ira L. Baldwin Professor of Bacteriology and UW Foundation Fetzer-Bascom Professor at UW–Madison. He is an internationally-recognized expert on bio-and genome-based conversion of renewable resources into valuable products.

Graduate student: Grace Enzien (pictured above) received a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Illinois. Previous undergraduate research, internships, and professional experience, including as a formulation technician for Blistex, Inc., led to Enzien developing a breadth of lab skills, from basic protocols, such as lab upkeep, to extracting DNA and genotype samples. She is pursuing a master’s degree in bacteriology and is mentored by Timothy Donohue from the Department of Bacteriology.

Enzien joins Donohue’s research team exploring how residues from milk production can be used to create new materials. The team hypothesizes that residues left over after milk is produced into food-grade products can be bio-converted into valuable materials, which would also improve the sustainability of the Wisconsin dairy community. This project aims to produce a designer form of lactic acid from residues. By 2025, the global D-lactic acid market is estimated to be worth $8.7 billion dollars and industrial interest for this designer organic acid is expected to grow significantly. Knowledge gained from this study is predicted to reduce negative environmental impacts of residues, increase their value to consumers, farmers and industry, and be applicable to bio-conversion of non-dairy products into other designer chemicals in the future.

Daniel Noguera