BIO 2012 Coverage Update

By Sam Nejame, founder of Promotum, a management consulting firmspecializing in technology commercialization and business development.


Wrapping up a week at BIO. Collection of interesting things seen and heard.

The Biofuels and Biobased Chemicals track kicked off boldly with a panel

comparing the outlook for Industrial Bio with Pharma Bio. Pretty scary

when you consider it took 30 years before recombinant drug cos. reached

meaningful profitability. Superstars Amgen and Genentech aside,

biotechnology was still crawling out the abyss in 2006. What did we

learn? Companies need to be honest and investors need patience.

Leveling the playing field. I’m always shocked when I see numbers for

government subsidies to the oil industry. John Hamer of Burrill reminded

me oil subsidies run ~$2.6B/year. Tough to wean an industry off subsidies

it’s enjoyed since 1926.

Benefits of renewable diesel more than just RINs. A panel covering

sustainability and GHG certification discussed biodiesel use in mines.

Good to see air quality (reduction in particulate, carbon monoxide, etc.

from diesel generators) and worker health benefits acknowledged.

The right stuff and single molecule “drop-ins.” Fuel standard

complexities can be maddening. Andrew Held, Virent, gave a brief primer

on jet fractions. Yep, those light ends are there in case you need to

restart the engine midair.

Moore’s law of biotechnology. I’ve been looking for the right way to

explain industrial biotechnology to clients for some time. How is it

tools that could previously only be used for products costing $10,000/kg

can now be used to make specialty chemicals, polymers… and even fuel? See

Nature 458: 719-724 (2009). Special thanks to Heather Youngs at EBI.

Scott Vitters, with Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle program, described successes

and obstacles in the company’s renewable packaging efforts. Coke

currently sells 1.8 billion servings/day with 50%-60% of their “value”

delivered in PET packaging. The company says it’s committed to 100%

renewable material at some point.

Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, architect of the $700 billion

Troubled Asset Relief Program, that saved numerous banks and other

financial institutions in 2008, appeared in Tuesday’s Key Note with holes

in the soles of his shoes. Austerity for all!

Final thoughts: Isn’t it a little strange that the renewable fuels

industry is the only industry that must meet LCA requirements? And it

doesn’t get paid for the GHG reductions? Did you know there’s something

called “the Ethical Oil movement?” I guess green moms are just going to

say “No!” to Nigerian distillate.

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