Clostridium phytofermentans (Cphy) was discovered in anaerobic forest soil from the Quabbin Reserve by Dr. Susan Leschine and Tom Warnick Cphy can directly convert a broad range of biomass sources directly to ethanol without expensive thermochemical pretreatment. Dr. Leschine founded SunEthanol (later Qteros), a biofuels company, that is developing strains derived from Cphy (Q Microbes) into an industrial platform to decrease our need for fossil fuels. Students from the University of Massachusetts are helping to develop strains and engineer processes.
The genome sequence of Cphy was determined by the Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute. Cphy is now being studied as a model system for understanding the cycling of carbon in forest soils, the development of biofuels and bioproducts and the digestion of plant material in the guts of insects and animals. Cphy was recently featured in an exhibit on soil microbes at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.