InterviewGenencor seeks more use of biochems

21 October 2008 21:14  [Source: ICIS news]

By Doris de Guzman

NEW YORK (ICIS news)--Replacing traditional chemicals with the use of enzymes is a long-term goal and one of the biggest opportunities for US biotechnology company Genencor, CEO Tjerk de Ruiter said on Tuesday.

After being acquired in 2005 by Danish food ingredients company Danisco, Genencor is now able to leverage more of its industrial biotechnology capabilities to make biochemicals and biofuels, said de Ruiter.

“We’ve been at the cradle of many great innovations in industrial biotechnology,” de Ruiter said. “The difference now with Danisco on board is allowing us to change our perspective and take a much larger share of the value chain, unlike before.”

Genencor is working on two major industrial biotechnology projects: biobased-isoprene and second-generation cellulosic ethanol.

The company is working with US tyre manufacturer Goodyear to develop a cost-effective and efficient way to produce biobased isoprene, using fermentation processing.

In May, Genencor formed a joint venture (JV) company - DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol - with US-based DuPont to develop and market lower-cost, second-generation ethanol made from feedstock such as corn stover, sugarcane bagasse and switchgrass.

On 14 October, the JV broke ground on its first pilot-scale biorefinery and biofuels research and development (R&D) facility in Vonore, Tennessee. The facility was expected to be operational next year, Genencor said.

“These are long-term areas of opportunities for us, but because of their size and scope, it is important that we have strong partners for this in order to be successful,” said de Ruiter.

The projects are expected to start generating revenues in around 3-5 years, he added.

While capital is being poured into upscaling research and development (R&D) for the projects, Genencor is strengthening its enzymes portfolio to offset some deterioration in margins, de Ruiter said.

“Our bottom line has been hit, but not unexpectedly, with higher raw material prices and tougher market conditions,” he said. “The key for us is to build a healthy enzymes business while at the same increase our investment in R&D.”

Within the enzymes business, Genencor is looking in food and animal nutrition as areas for greater opportunities.

Genencor also signed a collaboration agreement in September with Huntsman Textile Effects, the textile chemicals business of US-based chemical company Huntsman, to jointly develop sustainable processing solutions for textile production.

“The goal is to try to replace some chemicals in the textile industry, which could be very attractive,” de Ruiter said. “The Huntsman collaboration is an example of where we can leverage our existing technologies by finding new applications.”

Doris de Guzman examines alternative processing, new technology, R&D and other sustainability initiatives in Green Chemistry
Bookmark Simon Robinson’s Big Biofuels Blog for some independent thinking on biofuels
To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect

By: Doris de Guzman
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