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Commercialization, Collaboration Mark Day Two at BIO’s World Congress

June 19, 2013
Several companies made announcements yesterday during BIO’s 10th Annual World Congress on Industrial Biotech showcasing industry collaboration and commercial production. During a morning breakout session, Direct Conversion of Methane to Higher Value Products Using Biological Systems, Josh Silverman of Calysta Energy shared the company’s announcement to partner with NatureWorks for a research and development collaboration to convert methane into lactic acid – a building block for bioplastics.  Josh called the partnership a great fit for Calysta and sees it as a first step in commercialization that he believes they can apply to many products.

“If proven through this R&D collaboration, the new technology could be revolutionary because it will provide alternatives to the current reliance on agricultural feedstocks, and with the direct conversion of methane, it will greatly simplify the number of steps and operations needed to convert carbon into performance consumer products,” said Marc Verbruggen, president and CEO of NatureWorks.

In other company news yesterday, Gevo announced that it has resumed commercial production of isobutanol at its Luverne, Minn. plant. Gevo will sell the isobutanol it produces, using it for market development in the specialty chemicals market, the specialty oxygenated fuel blendstock market, and as a building block to make jet fuel and chemical products such as paraxylene for PET used in the production of bottles and fibers.

“I am pleased to report that we have been successful in operating our full-scale fermentation and our GIFT® separation system that separates the isobutanol from the fermentation broth.  This serves to further validate our technology as we had not previously run the GIFT® system at full scale. I can now say that it runs beautifully,” noted Patrick Gruber, Gevo’s Chief Executive Officer.

During an afternoon plenary session, Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa Biotech Association Executive Director Rachel Hurley presented Dr. Jay Keasling, The Hubbard Howe Jr. Distinguished Professor of Biochemical Engineering at University of California, Berkeley, with BIO’s George Washington Carver Award for Innovation in Industrial Biotechnology.

Keasling talked about his involvement in using synthetic biology to take the two-year planting cycle necessary for the creation of malaria-drug artemisinin and develop a new process that creates the same product in a matter of weeks. He sees a bright future for industrial biotechnology, but it will involve the industry and academics working together to achieve success.

During the ensuing plenary session the panel consisted of a different group than the usual biotech providers. Instead the panel brought the global brand owner, retailer and consumer perspective from World Wildlife Fund, The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, Procter & Gamble and The Coca Cola Company to discuss how the industrial biotech sector can move from R&D to commercial deployment, while preserving its contribution to a more sustainable production system.

“Only by integrating and focusing together on solving and anticipating issues are we going to be able to really deliver on the promise we’ve been talking about for the last 15 years and really see our industry deliver what it is capable of,” said panel moderator Jack Huttner, a consultant for Huttner Strategies.

Stay tuned to BIOtechNOW for the latest announcements and highlights as BIO’s 10th Annual World Congress continues. Get real time updates on Twitter by following the conference hashtag: #BIOWorldCongress.