OPX Biotechnologies: Biofuels Digest’s 5-Minute Guide

November 19, 2012 |


2425 55th Street, Suite 100
Boulder, CO 80301

Year Founded: 2007

Company description:

OPX Biotechnologies, Inc. (OPXBIO) is a Boulder, Colorado-based company using its proprietary, leading EDGE™ (Efficiency Directed Genome Engineering) technology platform to manufacture bio-based chemicals and fuels that deliver more sustainable value to our customers.

OPXBIO has successfully developed the pilot-scale process for making of its first bio-based chemical product – BioAcrylic – from a range of sugar feedstocks. OPXBIO is now producing BioAcrylic at large demonstration-scale in anticipation of first commercial production in 2014-2016. In 2011, OPXBIO began collaborating with The Dow Chemical Company, the largest U.S. producer of petro-acrylic, to develop the commercial process for producing BioAcrylic. Today’s petro-acrylic has a $10 billion global market with applications in products such as paints, adhesives, diapers and detergents.

OPXBIO has also proved its second bio-based product at lab-scale, using carbon dioxide and hydrogen to produce fatty acid for chemical and fuel applications. A $6 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy ARPA-E program supports this development.

Major Investors (if a public company, please provide trading symbol and exchange).
Investors supporting the company include Altira Group, Braemar Energy Ventures, DBL Investors, Mohr Davidow Ventures, US Renewables Group, Wolfensohn Capital Partners, and X/Seed Capital.

3 Top Milestones for 2009-12

1. OPXBIO achieves BioAcrylic fermentation at 3,000-liter scale

2. OPXBIO begins collaboration with The Dow Chemical Company to develop an industrial scale process for the production of bio-based acrylic acid from renewable feedstocks

3. In just 18 months of pilot-scale development, OPXBIO demonstrated a manufacturing process for making performance-equivalent BioAcrylic that is more sustainable than petroleum-based acrylic.

3 Major Milestone Goals for 2013-15:

1. OPXBIO is now producing BioAcrylic at large demonstration-scale in anticipation of first commercial production in 2014-2016

2. Additional partnership(s) for additional chemical(s)

3. Successful completion of the ARPA-E Electrofuels Program

Business Model: 

The company is focused on developing microbes and bioprocesses that can cost effectively produce bio-based chemicals and fuels. Most of this work is done at the pilot scale (laboratory or bench scale) and demonstration scale (100,000s of lbs per year). To develop the commercial scale facilities (100,000,000s of lbs per year), the company intends to enter into strategic partnerships and joint ventures. The company intends to participate in the commercialization of all its products as a joint venture partner. OPXBIO will fund its own technology development and the initial development of new bio-based chemicals and fuels. This strategy allows OPXBIO to concentrate on its core competencies of microbe and bioprocess development and leverage the expertise of its partners for commercialization.

Competitive Edge(s):

The EDGE™ (Efficiency Directed Genome Engineering) technology platform enables rapid, rational, and robust optimization of microbes and bioprocesses to manufacture bioproducts with equivalent performance and improved sustainability compared to petroleum-based alternatives.

Using EDGE, OPXBIO identifies the genes that control microbial metabolism and then implement a comprehensive, rational genetic change strategy to simultaneously optimize microbial production pathways and vitality as well as overall bioprocess productivity.

EDGE includes a first-of-its-kind, massively parallel, full genome search technology known as SCALEs. The EDGE technology is 1,000 to 5,000 times faster than conventional genetic engineering methods, meaning OPXBIO creates optimized microbes and bioprocesses within months rather than years.

Research, or Manufacturing Partnerships or Alliances:

The Dow Chemical Company
MBI International

U.S. Department of Energy ARPA-E Program
• National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
• Johnson Matthey Catalysts LLC Stage: (Bench, pilot, demonstration, commercial)

Stage: Demonstration

Company website

Product: BioAcrylic

Product Description:
BioAcrylic is a renewable form of the industrial chemical, acrylic acid. Traditionally, acrylic acid is produced from propylene, derived from petroleum.

Product Applications:
Diapers, detergents, paints and adhesives—anywhere acrylic acid is used today.

Unique Features
BioAcrylic will perform the same as petroleum-based acrylic acid but is developed from renewable feedstocks.

Feedstocks and bio-based content
OPXBIO’s EDGE (Efficiency Directed Genome Engineering) technology platform allows the production of a number of biochemicals and biofuels from a range of feedstocks, such as sucrose from sugarcane, dextrose from corn and syngas (carbon dioxide and hydrogen).

Product: Fatty Acids

Product Description:
OPXBIO has demonstrated lab-scale production of its second product—fatty acid derived from syngas (carbon dioxide and hydrogen) via a fermentation pathway—for chemical and fuel applications. The company was awarded a $6 million grant by the U.S. DOE in April 2010 to support this development.

Product Applications:
Jet fuel, diesel fuel, shampoo, detergent and soap.

Unique Features
OPXBIO’s fermentation process uses carbon dioxide and hydrogen directly to produce fatty acids that are then chemically converted to direct replacement diesel and jet fuel. The carbon dioxide and hydrogen can be sourced from numerous diverse feedstocks such as syngas from the gasification of biomass and municipal solid waste, by-products from manufacturing processes or from more traditional sources such as natural gas or shale gas. The diversity in feedstock sources directly addresses many of the overarching issues around the liquid fuel industry today, including energy security issues, reducing imported oil, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing the availability to have more renewable fuel sources and increasing energy diversity.

OXPBIO can also leverage its work on direct replacement diesel and jet fuel into the chemical market. OPXBIO will develop commercially-viable fatty acids that have applications in the surfactant, detergent and other markets using hydrogen and carbon dioxide as its feedstock. This will create unique chemical products utilizing a diverse feedstock that provides flexibility in plant locations and optimization of the overall cost and economics.

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