Biotech recap

Last week’s World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing conference in Chicago was a well of news and information for green journalists. The debate on food versus biofuel was a constant issue while biomass refineries was the most talked about topic for the whole 3-day meeting. Attendance of major oil companies were most noticeable and according to the organizer of the show, Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), this year’s attendance number was a record-high.

Unfortunately, I was only able to attend 3-4 sessions out of 20 per day as my body-doubles elected to explore Chicago instead. Pls. check out my earlier blogs on Germany and China biotech industry, and some tidbit biobased news reported on last Friday’s Weekly News Roundup.Here are the rest of accumulated green chemical news I’ve gathered from the conference. If you’re not satisfied with it, I suggest you attend next year’s conference instead…Fat discovery in AustraliaAustralian researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the continent’s science agency, discovered a new class of fatty acids – alpha-hydroxy polyacetylenic fatty acids – that could be used as sensors for detecting changes in temperature and mechanical stress loads. CSIRO scientists said they are also close to developing biofactory plants that could produce oils as chemical feedstock. CSIRO’s presentation can also be read on this article from ABC Science.A burst of algae growthThe development of algae as potential economical biofuel feedstock has been generating a lot of buzz and a new trade organization devoted to the industry will launch soon, according to Thomas Byrne of Byrne Co. Ltd., who was one of the speaker in the conference. More analysis on the algae session was discussed on this article from United Press International.Glowing white biotech Presentations from Evonik, DSM, Metabolix and DuPont reported on the growing trend towards more development of biobased/renewable products within the chemical industry triggered by high oil prices, fast technology advances, and increasing interests in sustainable solutions. According to DSM, the current global white biotechnology industry (biotechnology applied to industrial processes) is worth $80bn, majority of which is in biospecialties ($50bn) such as food ingredients, biopharmaceuticals, and fine chemicals; about $10bn comes from chemical building-blocks and materials; while the rest is in biofuels ($20bn).And the rest…Other news included Canada stepping up to boost their bio-based economy; the risks and potential of the biomass industry; sustainability as another most talked-about topic at the conference, according to BIO; and the importance of biotechnology as the answer to global food and fuel problems.

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