Genomatica: Biofuels Digest’s 2015 5-Minute Guide

March 31, 2015 |

5-Minute-Guide-logoGenomatica is a widely-recognized technology leader for the chemical industry. It delivers new manufacturing processes that enable its partners to produce the world’s most widely-used chemicals from alternative feedstocks, with better economics and greater sustainability than petroleum-based processes.

Genomatica’s first process, for the production of BDO, is commercial. Our GENO BDO™ process has been licensed by BASF and by Novamont; BASF has announced its first commercial production; over nine million pounds have been produced to date; and multiple large chemical firms have publicly validated quality and/or described commercialization plans, including Invista (for its well-known Lycra® spandex), DSM, Lanxess, Toray, and Far Eastern New Century.

Genomatica’s second set of processes is for butadiene, with Versalis and Braskem as anchor partners, and over $100 million in industry support.

Genomatica’s third set of processes is for nylon intermediates, including hexamethylenediamine, caprolactam and adipic acid (HMD, CPL and ADA).


30 Hottest Companies in Renewable Chemicals: #1, 2014-15


2013 Renewable Chemical of the Year — BDO (Genomatica, Lanxess, BASF, Toray)

The Situation

In August 2014, Genomatica announced that major nylon intermediates – including hexamethylenediamine, caprolactam and adipic acid (HMD, CPL and ADA) – are the focus of its third publicly-disclosed development program. Genomatica is developing complete process technologies for the biobased production of these intermediates, which it will then license to major firms in the nylon value chain. These three chemicals, with a total market of over $18 billion per year, are used primarily in the production of nylon 6 and nylon 6,6, also referred to as the polyamides PA 6 and PA 6,6.

Genomatica has been building a comprehensive set of nylon program assets over the last few years. The nylon program builds on a large body of intellectual property (IP), which includes but is not limited to eight issued U.S. patents and numerous pending applications worldwide, as well as trade secrets that include engineered strains, with some of the IP developed internally and some from a recent IP acquisition. A number of the concepts described by Genomatica’s patent filings have been validated in experimental proofs of concept, demonstrating feasibility. These include the successful demonstration of certain metabolic pathways; production of certain nylon intermediates in various microorganisms; and efficient methods to produce and recover certain nylon intermediates from the fermentation.

Genomatica’s nylon intermediates program follows commercialization and licensing of its GENO BDO™ process, and strong progress with its butadiene program, which has gained over $100 million in industry support, with Versalis and Braskem as anchor partners.

This pairs with its established commercial licensing in BDO and its second platform, butadiene.

Top Past Milestones

In July 2014, we heard from the whispering winds of Wichita that INVISTA, the redoubtable owner of the Lycra and Stainmaster brands, amongst many others, has introduced the only commercial offering of a bio-derived spandex available globally and for use in a wide variety of apparel fabrics and garments.

According to INVISTA: “Approximately 70 percent by weight of the new LYCRA® bio-derived spandex fiber comes from a renewable source made from dextrose derived from corn. The use of a renewable feedstock in the making of this new LYCRA bio-derived fiber results in a lower CO2 emissions footprint than spandex produced using traditional raw materials.”

The secret ingredient? Genomatica BDO. Or, rather, BASF’s BDO, made using the licensed Genomatica process. Kudos to INVISTA for getting it into product and putting their muscle behind this breakthrough material, as a part of their Planet Agenda sustainability program.

In December 2013, Braskem and Genomatica announced an agreement for the joint development of commercial process technology to make bio-based butadiene from renewable feedstocks. Braskem is the world’s leading producer of biopolymers and the world’s third largest producer of butadiene. Under the agreement, Braskem anticipates providing significant funding of Genomatica’s development work over several years; will allocate significant Braskem R&D resources; and fund the construction and operation of pilot and demonstration-scale butadiene production plants using the process. In return, Braskem will receive certain exclusive license rights to use the resulting process technology in the Americas. Genomatica will also receive fees and royalties for each licensed commercial plant.

In February 2013, the company confirmed what had been rumored for some time amongst the fermeterati — their massive project, producing biobased BDO (1.4, butanediol) in the big 600,000 liter fermenters at a DuPont Tate & Lyle plant in Tennessee, had come off without a hitch. Think of it. 5 million pounds in a five-week run of continuous fermentations, probably 50 in all. Street value, not far shy of $5 million — all of it quickly sold to customers.

In the world of BDO, and of renewable chemicals as a whole — where output is measured in pounds and tonnes instead of gallons and barrels — 1 million pounds a week is world-class scale. More than 2,000 metric tonnes, made from conventional dextrose sugars — instead of from conventional fossil petroleum as BDO usually is.

This marks the first time that BDO– with an existing worldwide market of billions of pounds per year – has been produced biologically on this scale and at this rate. This campaign was completed less than five years from when Genomatica first demonstrated the ability for a microorganism to produce BDO in 2008. In their case, it’s modified e.coli fermentation. Genomatica produced commercial Bio-BDO less than two years after Genomatica and Tate & Lyle signed a joint development agreement for the demonstration-scale production of Genomatica’s Bio-BDO (1,4-butanediol) — at 13,000 liter scale at the Tate & Lyle plant in Decatur, Illinois.

Earlier, Genomatica and BASF announced a license agreement allowing BASF to build a world-scale production facility that uses Genomatica’s GENO BDO process. BASF later announced that it produced its first commercial volumes of BDO from renewable raw material using Genomatica’s process, and is offering this product to customers for testing and commercial use.

3 Major Milestone Goals

Broader, deeper commercial rollout of GENO BDO process.

Additional partners for butadiene program and the nylons program.

Business Model

Genomatica licenses its process technologies to major chemical firms, so they can produce major chemicals using alternative feedstocks.  The partners build, own and operate these plants, providing Genomatica with milestone fees and royalties.

In addition, major partners sponsor research and development programs that lead to processes for new target chemicals, such as for butadiene.  Genomatica then licenses these processes to the industry, with sponsors receiving advantageous terms.

The combination of licensing and sponsored R&D allows a capital-efficient business model for Genomatica.

Genomatica’s partners include BASF, Novamont, Braskem, Versalis, Mitsubishi Chemical,  DuPont Tate & Lyle, Tate & Lyle,  M&G/Chemtex and Waste Management.

Competitive Edge:

For Licensees:

It Works:  The BDO produced using Genomatica’s process has repeatedly proven that it meets the demanding quality and economic requirements of the global chemical industry. This is evidenced by the multiple industry leaders that are taking steps toward producing real-world products from BDO made with Genomatica’s process:

It works at commercial scale:  Genomatica’s production of millions of pounds of product, in just weeks, starting in Q4 2012, established new benchmarks for the industry and showed that the process is ready for prime time.

Better Economics and Smaller Environmental Footprint: Our processes deliver better economics (e.g. 50% lower capex for plant construction) and a smaller environmental footprint.  Additionally, because our technology is based on fermentation and separation processes, our approach is simpler, uses less energy, operates at ‘gentler’ temperatures and pressures, costs less to build and operate, and lets producers more reliably match supply and demand.

For Genomatica:

Genomatica’s biotechnology platform – and extensive intellectual property on over 20 major industrial chemicals – provides a significant advantage in approaching and mastering the development of cost-effective processes for multiple intermediate and basic chemicals. Its distinctiveness and significance has been recognized by earning both the top science award (EPA Presidential Green Chemistry) and the top chemical engineering award (Kirkpatrick).

The company adds: “Our platform is designed to identify the most efficient biochemical pathways and select the most effective microorganisms to convert feedstocks into target chemicals, leading to optimal process technologies developed in a capital-efficient manner. As of October 31, 2013, we owned or had licensed rights to 71 issued patents and 450 pending patent applications, in addition to trade secrets and other intellectual property rights.”


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