It’s Genomatica! Renowned San Diego bioeconomy hotshop to acquire REG Life Sciences

June 6, 2019 |

In Iowa, we’ve learned that Renewable Energy Group has completed the sale of substantially all assets of REG Life Sciences’ to Genomatica.

REG acquired the Life Sciences business in 2014, when it was known as LS9. Since then the team has successfully advanced the technology development over several years including through key strategic partnerships with Exxon Mobil and Clariant. Many of the REG Life Sciences team members will join Genomatica at its San Diego Innovation Center.

The REG Life Sciences backstory

We last looked in depth at REG Life Sciences in “The Bio Wilburys: ExxonMobil, REG add Clariant to monumental effort for cellulosic-to-biodiesel — that’s here — and in 2016, we reported that REG Life Sciences delivered its first commercial product, a specialty fatty acid.

REG developed, produced and delivered approximately one metric ton of the renewable, multi-functional chemical to Aroma Chemical Services International. ACS will use the specialty chemical for the production of a high-performance musk ingredient for sale into the $620 million global musk ingredient market.

Fatty acids are one of three product areas REG Life Sciences has focused on, along with esters and alcohols. Work on this product began last year after REG and ACS identified the specialty fatty acid as particularly well suited for the production of a high-performance musk.

In 2017, we reported that ExxonMobil and Renewable Energy Group announced that by utilizing REG’s patented fermentation technology, the companies’ joint research program has demonstrated the ability to convert sugars from a variety of non-edible biomass sources into biodiesel.

But what about the sourcing of the sugars? In January we reported that Clariant will conduct trials at its pre-commercial plant in Straubing, Germany using different types of cellulosic feedstock that will be converted into sugars for conversion by REG and ExxonMobil into high-quality, low-carbon biodiesel.

More on that storyline here.

The Genomatica backstory

Backed most recently by the spidery web of Gingko BioWorks and its sprawling ambitions to deliver better molecules to everyone and everywhere — and mindful in that respect of Genomatica’s potential to provide better industrial processes to everyone, everywhere for everything bio (though its specific pipelines are into disciplined channels of advantage) — let’s look at Genomatica and this REG Life Sciences acquisition.

What they get is an advantaged set of organisms — a library of advantage, as it were — and perhaps missing that step of translating an organism into a process for which Genomatica has become justly famed through its work on BDO, butadiene and elsewhere.

Just a few examples. In March we reported that Covestro and Genomatica launched a partnership for high-performance plant-based materials.

In February we looked at High Tide for Brontide – Genomatica’s Butylene Glycol and its markets.

And last October we looked at Genomatica Magica – $90 Million Financing, Commercialized Technologies, Biobased Nylon — that’s here.

The REG backstory

We last looked at REG in depth in December in “C.J.s back and REGI’s got her: Warner tapped as new Renewable Energy Group CEO” — that’s here.

Reaction from the stakeholders

“We are pleased to be selling our Life Sciences’ assets to Genomatica, who are well positioned to build upon the technical progress we have made, and to advance the team and the technology through to commercialization,” said REG’s CEO Cynthia J. Warner. “As we focus on our core strategies to grow our fuel business, this deal allows the technology to develop with a new owner while we retain the opportunity to participate in the successful commercialization of the technology in the future.”

“Consumer demand for sustainable products continues to grow, and successful companies will increasingly switch to ingredients that reduce harm to the environment and work with partners with shared values,” said Christophe Schilling, Genomatica’s CEO. “This acquisition adds powerful technology and talent to help Genomatica enhance the sustainability of everyday products.”

For more information about this announcement or inquires related to the technology, contact Genomatica at [email protected] or visit

The Bottom Line

When REG announced they were on the hunt for a buyer for the Life Sciences unit, we speculated that the acquirer would have a strategic interest in the work with ExxonMobil and Clariant in the area of cellulosics-to-fuels. Genomatica’s interests are bound to be much broader than that — digging into the substantive library of potential that the old LS9 and then REG Life Sciences developed, to see where these advantaged organisms can be turned into viable, affordable processes and thereby gain the great commercial success that has oft been expected from this unit and team but has so far eluded it over the years of developing its library.

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