30 Hottest Companies in Renewable Chemicals candidate profile: Genomatica

May 31, 2011 |

Note to Community members: Welcome to the sneak preview of the 30 Hottest Companies in Renewable Chemicals competition. This month, we are profiling nominees (not winners). Here, we are asking you to rate the companies. Digest Community member ratings will form 33 percent of the overall ballot for this years Hot 30.

Company name:: Genomatica

Company description:

Genomatica is a leader in sustainable chemicals: ‘greener’ intermediate and basic chemicals made from renewable feedstocks, rather than oil and gas. Our goal is to transform the chemical industry – and thousands of everyday materials – through direct replacements for high-volume chemicals that deliver better economics and a smaller environmental footprint.   Genomatica is moving to demonstration-scale production of its first product, Bio-BDO, through a strategic partnership with Tate & Lyle.  We expect to be in commercial production in 2012, with world-scale plants in the U.S., Europe and Asia in 2013 and 2014.  Additional strategic agreements include Mitsubishi Chemical, Gruppo M&G and Waste Management; these are aimed at speeding commercialization and at at delivering feedstock flexibility, across a range of conventional sugars, biomass, and syngas made from municipal solid waste.  Genomatica has raised $84 million to date.

Year Founded: 2000

Chief Executive Officer: Christophe Schilling

Annual Revenues: N/A

Major Investors:

Genomatica has raised $84 million from investors including Alloy Ventures, Bright Capital, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Mitsubishi Chemical, Mohr Davidow Ventures, TPG Biotech, VantagePoint Venture Partners and Waste Management.

Type of Processing Technology(ies)

The company’s direct Bio-BDO production, based on fermentation and separation processes, is simpler, uses less energy, operates at ‘gentler’ temperatures and pressures and costs far less to build.  This unique approach has been featured in the peer-reviewed Nature Chemical Biology scientific journal.  Other processes that look to produce a ‘greener’ BDO use multiple steps, including chemical processing steps, even when part of the process uses production from organisms.  Genomatica’s  approach is inherently less capital-intensive and less costly on an operating basis.


Genomatica is focused on major intermediate and basic chemicals – the core of a trillion dollar global chemical market. These chemicals each have real, existing markets in the billions to scores of billions of dollars. Genomatica’s green, drop-in alternatives speed the greening of the products around us, as the fibers, polymers and plastics around us are made using our sustainable intermediate and basic chemicals.

The company’s first commercial product is a green version of BDO, proven in pilot production and currently working toward demonstration-scale production. BDO has a $4 billion market worldwide, is used to make spandex, automotive plastics, running shoes and much more.

Major chemicals ‘of high interest’ include isopropanol, butadiene and propylene. Each of these has a multi-billion dollar existing market, and is central to everyday products. Green versions from Genomatica can have a major positive environmental benefit.

Genomatica has significant IP related to many major intermediate and basic chemicals.


Genomatica’s flexible feedstock strategy delivers strong economic and practical benefits to its partners for production of sustainable chemicals in all major world geographies.

Near-term, the company plans to deliver cost-advantaged production economics using a range of commercially-available sugars, including sucrose from sugar cane and sugar beets, or dextrose from corn. A recent agreement with Tate & Lyle for demonstration-scale production illustrates the current viability of Bio-BDO produced from conventional sugars.

Next, cellulosic sugars from biomass offer global flexibility and lower cost production potential.  The company has partnered with M&G (Gruppo Mossi & Ghisolfi) to produce Bio-BDO from biomass at demonstration scale.  M&G is building the world’s largest cellulosic ethanol plant, using the same Proesa process that will be used as part of the Bio-BDO production process.

Longer term, the company expects to deliver further cost advantages by using syngas, which can be generated globally from a wide range of renewable and conventional sources, including municipal waste. Waste Management has signed a joint development agreement with Genomatica to develop technology and processes for making higher-value chemicals from syngas produced from municipal solid waste.

Product Cost:

Genomatica has achieved productivity, yield and titer at lab scale that would allow cost competitiveness with the best petro-based BDO cash costs in North America.  Genomatica plans to achieve the overall bio-BDO product performance needed for cost-advantaged production in 2011, followed by the first world-scale manufacturing plant to be operational in late 2013.

Offtake partners (if applicable)

Genomatica is fundamentally committed to partnering, rather than doing it ourselves. We believe that we will more quickly transform the industry and make an impact by helping industry leaders with their products and programs.

Genomatica’s future offtake partners will include chemical companies currently  producing intermediate and basic chemicals from fossil fuels, chemical companies producing downstream chemicals, and product manufacturers.

Partners include Dow, DSM, Unilever, NatureWorks/Cargill, Kyowa Hakko, and Verenium. These partnerships demonstrated the strength of the Genomatica integrated technology platform for modeling and design of a range of organisms and processes. The work both validated and extended Genomatica’s platform. New partnerships are focused on the commercial development and production of targeted intermediate and basic chemicals.

Co-products (if applicable) (e.g. feed, fuel)

Because our organisms are tuned to target a single, high-value chemical, Genomatica processes do not produce any co-products.

Top Milestones for 2009-10

During 2009 and 2010, Genomatica made rapid progress toward commercialization.  This included validation of the Bio-BDO process at pilot scale; agreements with Tate & Lyle, Mitsubishi Chemical, Gruppo M&G and Waste Management; as well as raising an additional $45 million in financing.  The company has a much higher profile, with recognition of its technology in peer-reviewed journals and featured speaking roles at numerous industry conferences.

3 Major Milestone Goals for 2011‐13

In 2011, the company plans to validate its Bio-BDO process at demonstration scale, which will let us move quickly to planning and construction of world-scale plants.

Genomatica expects to announce multiple additional partnerships during 2011, 2012 and 2013, with a combination of feedstock partners, chemical companies and offtake partners.

Genomatica plans to start commercial production of Bio-BDO from conventional sugars in 2012.  In addition, we plan to have successfully harnessed biomass for production of Bio-BDO at demonstration scale.  Lastly, by 2012 we’ll be making announcements regarding additional products.

Business Model:

Genomatica is focused on partnering as the most effective way to bring our products to market, and can more quickly make an impact by selling our products with industry leaders, leveraging their scale and market expertise.

As an example, Genomatica signed a memorandum of understanding with Mitsubishi Chemical, to develop a joint venture for Bio-BDO production in Asia, and the development of additional intermediate and basic chemicals.

The company has partnered with Tate & Lyle for demonstration-scale production and to use the feedstock from their corn wet-mill. To further develop our feedstock strategy, we have partnered with M&G for biomass and Waste Management for syngas.

They will engage in a variety of partnerships to commercialize multiple high-volume industrial chemicals.

Competitive Edge(s):

Genomatica has developed a one-step process, going directly from renewable feedstocks to the product of interest. This means fewer processing steps, lower capital costs, greater efficiency, and reduced overall cost. Genomatica’s process outperforms existing chemical processes on cost, flexibility and environmental impact.  Because the process is mechanically simpler than traditional methods, the factories will be simpler and less expensive to build. With 50% lower capex for factories and lower ongoing costs, its partners will see significant savings over the competition.

Genomatica’s processes have a lower environmental impact. It’s first commercial product, BDO, will have lower greenhouse gas emissions by 70% – with a potential impact of 7 billion pounds per year. Our process for BDO is 60% lower-energy than competing processes.

Distribution, Research, Marketing or Production Partnerships or Alliances:

Genomatica has research and production partnerships with Tate & Lyle, Gruppo M&G, Mitsubishi Chemical and Waste Management.  Tate & Lyle will dedicate a production facility in Decatur, Illinois, for the scale-up of the Bio-BDO process using corn as a feedstock. In addition to our joint venture for Bio-BDO, Genomatica and Mitsubishi have agreed to collaborate on development of multiple chemical products. Our partnership with M&G, includes development and demonstration-scale production of Bio-BDO from biomass.

Stage: Demonstration

Projected production volume for 2011: Demonstration scale

Website URL: www.genomatica.com

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