WASHINGTON -- The milestone 5 millionth U.S. patent wasawarded to the University of Florida for a process for usingrecombinant bacteria to make a cheap gasoline substitute fromagricultural and other waste.

It was chosen last week as patent No. 5,000,000 "because itrepresents a new technology -- biotechnology, it was inventedby Americans, and it deals with issues that technology needaddress: the environment and energy," said Patent andTrademark Office spokesman Gil Weidenfeld.

The technique was developed by University of Florida scientistLonnie Ingram. He inserted genes from zymomonas, anethanol-producing bacteria, into E. coli, a bacteria that digestscellulose. The resulting recombinant bacteria can convert wastematerial, usually destined for landfill, into ethanol, anenvironment-friendly and cheap fuel.

The patent was listed out of the normal classification sequenceto receive the magic number. It was sandwiched between No.4,999,999, "Exhaust Gas Control Device for Motorcycles," andNo. 5,000,001, "Dual Load-Sensing Passage Adjustable ReliefValues for Hydraulic Motor Control."

-- Rachel Nowak Washington Bureau Chief

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