Interview: Update on Genomatica

Four more BIO interviews remaining in the pipeline (woohooo!). This one is my interview with Dennis McGrew, Genomatica’s new executive vice president of business development and chief business officer.

Genomatica announced at the BIO industrial biotech conference that it was able to achieved pilot-scale validation of its bio-based 1,4 butanediol (BDO) at 3,000 liter-batches, a 100-fold increase from lab scale within two months. The scale-up was performed at MBI, a not-for-profit technology company affiliated with Michigan State University’s BioEconomy Network.

The next step is another 10x scale up between 20,000 and 50,000 liters within the next several months. Genomatica plans to have an integrated demonstration facility to come online in the second half of 2011, and commercial production either late 2013 or early 2014 for their bio-BDO.

The company’s strategy is provide a lower cost processing technology for BDO, where smaller BDO and derivatives plants can be build regionally rather than being attached from a big petrochemical grid. McGrew said they are assessing options not only in North America but in Europe, Asia and South America for their bio-BDO demo scale.

Genomatica estimates the global BDO market currently at $3bn, with a wide variety of applications ranging from making spandex, automotive plastics, running shoes, etc. The company currently uses commercial-grade sugars as feedstock. McGrew said they can use cellulosic biomass and syngas for future feedstock.

Aside from BDO, McGrew said they have 19 other chemicals in the pipeline and it will depend on future joint venture partners on which one they will work on next.

“We’ve taken BDO through piloting and demonstration phase on our own but for other products in the pipeline, we’re looking to partner more early. Partners will help drive the selection of which products from amongst the other 19 chemicals that we can work on — that will be a primary criteria from which one of those to move forward,” said McGrew.

Other chemicals Genomatica can work on are solvents, surfactants, acrylates, nylons and other base chemicals.

Another update is Genomatica confirming that they have shelved the bio-methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) project for now. McGrew said they were able to show proof of concept for the chemical in the course of 4 months but current market opportunity is not as compelling compared to BDO.

Genomatica started research on bio-MEK in the second half of 2008, when corn ethanol producers were being squeezed. At the time, the company expected to produce MEK from plants being idled by ethanol producers. The downtrend in global economy and change in ethanol economics have made the bio-MEK project not as attractive, said McGrew.

“We want to focus on driving BDO as quickly as possible instead of focusing to develop two projects simultaneously,” he added.

addthis_pub = ‘greenchicgeek’;

Leave a Reply