U.S. Policy Outlook Featured at World Congress

A special pre-conference workshop has been added to the World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology that is taking place May 12-15, 2014 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. “U.S. Policy Outlook: From the RFS to Tax Reform to Farm Bill Implementation – What Lies Ahead for Advanced Biofuels and Renewable Chemicals?” is designed to assess the threats and opportunities on the U.S. federal policy landscape for 2014. Issues discussed will include the Farm Bill, tax reform and potential changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

BIO logo“This robust policy discussion is a great way to start to the world’s largest event on industrial biotechnology. Industrial biotechnology touches all of our lives and changes to these policies could have significant impact the industry’s future growth,” said James Greenwood, President and CEO of Biotechnology Industry Organization. “I am pleased to lead a panel of such prominent policy experts in a conversation during a time when the Renewable Fuel Standard, the Farm Bill and tax reform have become top Congressional priorities, the Obama Administration and key federal agencies.”

Pre-conference Workshop on U.S. policy outlook for industrial biotechnology will be moderated by James Greenwood, President & CEO, Biotechnology Industry Organization, with opening remarks from Representative Allyson Schwartz (D), Member of Congress for Pennsylvania’s 13th District and Candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania (invited). Panelists include James Massie, Alpine Group; Ryan Stroschein, Green Capitol LLC; Tim Urban, Washington Council Ernst & Young; and Dr. Matt Carr, Managing Director, BIO.

Brazilian Industrial Biotechnology Association Formed

A group of industrial biotechnology companies have joined forces to form the Brazilian Industrial Biotechnology Association (in Portuguese ABBI – Associação Brasileira de Biotecnologia Industrial). This new association (ABBI) brings together companies and institutions developing and using microorganisms and its derivatives to deliver renewable products for industries and consumers worldwide. ABBI’s primary objective is to foster a dialogue within Brazilian society about the advancements of industrial biotechnology in Brazil. The founding members of ABBI are Amyris, BASF, BioChemtex, BP, Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira, Dow, DSM, DuPont, GranBio, Novozymes, Raízen and Rhodia.

ABBIABBI will promote a dialogue with stakeholders and policymakers to improve Brazil’s biotechnology regulations and update current legislation in light of technological advances of the last several years. The trade association also believes there is room for improvement in Brazil’s patent laws, particularly as they relate to biological products and processes. The group supports additional investments in research and development, capacity and training for skilled and technical labor, and laboratory infrastructure.

“The establishment of ABBI is important for the Brazilian government as this group is reliable partner in the formulation of a coherent positive agenda, with proposals for the advancement of business and technology,” said Luciano Coutinho, President of the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES), who participated at the event launching ABBI yesterday in São Paulo. BNDES has invested R$1.2 billion (about US$540 million) in biotechnology projects in Brazil.

Brazil is one of most biodiversity rich countries in the world and provides good conditions to utilize industrial biotechnology to make significant gains in productivity and competitiveness. The use of such biotechnology can increase productivity, improve process efficiencies, and reduce waste and pollution in Brazil and beyond. Speaking at the event in Brazil yesterday, Professor Greg Stephanopoulos, of the Bioinformatics & Metabolic Engineering Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, stated that industrial biotechnology would help Brazil take a leadership position in the 21st Century global economy.

Algae Facility Partners with ReVenture Park

Renewed World Energies (RWE) has agreed to enter into a partnership with ReVenture Park in Charlotte, North Carolina to develop an algae-to-fuel pilot plant. The Eco-Industrial Park caters to clean energy businesses and will work with RWE to expand its technology from pilot scale to commercial scale. The company is developing different strains of algae that will be utilized to create biofuels as well as health supplements. The pilot facility is expected to be operational September 30, 2012.

There are numerous species of algae and each one has its own unique characteristics. One goal of researchers is to identify and develop strains that are best fits for certain uses, such as to produce jet fuel or for use as a replacement for oil in cosmetics, food and fertilizer. RWE’s system produces algae oil and algae cake, which can be fed as a food supplement to livestock or to make fish feed.

RWE President Richard Armstrong founded his company in South Carolina but chose North Carolina to take it to the next level. “We were attracted to the eco-industrial synergies at ReVenture Park. North Carolina also seems to be more attuned to the renewable fuels, and offers multiple benefits for showcasing new technology.”

ReVenture Park took advantage of nearly 700 acres of abandoned land that was a former textile dye-manufactured site. It is now being transformed into an Eco-Industrial Park focused on research and development of clean technology.

“We are pleased to have struck a deal to have RWE move a facility to ReVenture,” said Tom McKittrick, President Forsite Development. “RWE was attracted to the sites extensive existing infrastructure which then can utilize and there are multiple opportunities for us to collaborate.”

Novozymes Nebraska Enzyme Plant Opens

Advanced biofuels took a $200 million step forward on the march toward commercialization Wednesday with the official opening of Novozymes’ enzyme plant in Blair, Nebraska.

The inauguration of Novozymes’ new Blair facility was celebrated with employees, customers, community leaders and government officials, including the governor of Nebraska, Dave Heineman, U.S. Department of Energy Senior Advisor Jason Walsh and Blair Mayor James Realph. The governor and the mayor together ceremonially started the fermentation process at the plant. “The grand opening of Novozymes is important for the ethanol industry and for energy independence,” said Governor Dave Heineman. “Nebraska is one of the top producers of ethanol in America, which makes our state the perfect site for this facility.”

With the 100 new jobs created by the plant opening, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack highlighted the importance of expanding tax credits for investments in clean energy manufacturing for the economy during a conference call today with Novozymes President Adam Monroe. Novozymes leveraged its $200 million private investment in the Blair facility with a 48C manufacturing tax credit from the federal government.

“This program (48C) along with several other tax credits really create the opportunity for a clean energy future with three very important results,” said Vilsack. Those results, he says, include increasing farm income, creating jobs, and reducing reliance on foreign oil.

Monroe says biofuels currently make up 16% of Novozyme’s $2 billion in revenues. “We’ve done a number of research projects funded by DOE and have reduced the cost of the key enzymes needed for advanced biofuels production by 90%,” he said. “Now it’s about getting steel in the ground and moving ahead. We wanted to be ready when this industry commercialized and now we are.”

Listen to comments from Secretary Vilsack and Adam Monroe here: Vilsack/Monroe press conference

Novozymes CEO Named BIO 2012 George Washington Carver Award Winner

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) has named Novozymes President and CEO Steen Riisgaard as the recipient of its 2012 George Washington Carver Award for innovation in industrial biotechnology.

A panel selected Riisgaard as this year’s winner “to recognize his significant contributions to the industrial biotechnology field.”

Under Riisgaard’s leadership, Novozymes is creating tomorrow’s industrial biotechnology solutions and improving the use of our planet’s resources, while reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Riisgaard will receive the award and also deliver a short address during a May 1, 2012 plenary lunch session at the BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology & Bioprocessing. The conference is being held at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Orlando April 29-May 2.
Washington Carver Award Recipient

“I am honored to receive the 2012 George Washington Carver Award,” Riisgaard said. “At Novozymes, we see biotechnology as a way to reshape the world’s economy and create balance between better business, a cleaner environment and better lives. This award is a mandate to continue innovating with our customers, moving towards a world where everyday products are made with organic materials instead of oil.”

The award honors the original vision of George Washington Carver, an originator of the “chemurgy” movement who, more than a century ago, achieved world renown by combining agriculture and science to produce everyday biobased products, changing the nature of farm economics and sustainability. Industrial biotechnology is the modern-day equivalent, combining biotech innovations with renewable biomass to create solutions that can revitalize manufacturing and energy.

Novozymes to Research Ethanol From Seaweed

Novozymes has announced a new research agreement that will explore enzymatic technology to produce fuel ethanol, fine chemicals, and protein from seaweed.

NovozymesThe industrial biotech firm has entered into an agreement with India-based Sea6 Energy to jointly develop a process for the production of biofuels from seaweed. The research alliance will use enzymes to convert seaweed-based carbohydrates to sugar, which can then be fermented to produce ethanol for fuel, fine chemicals, proteins for food, and fertilizers for plants.

NovozymesNovozymes will research, develop, and manufacture enzymes for the conversion process, while Sea6 Energy contributes its offshore seaweed cultivation technology. “Seaweed is a natural complement to our efforts to convert other types of biomass to fuel ethanol,” says Per Falholt, Executive Vice President and CSO of Novozymes. “More than half of the dry mass in seaweed is sugar, and the potential is therefore significant.”

Sea6 Energy is currently trialing its cultivation technology in partnership with a few fishing communities around the coastal areas of South India. Novozymes’ Indian arm will work closely with Sea6 Energy to develop the conversion technology.

BASF Invests in Cellulosic Sugar Company

BASFGlobal chemical giant BASF has invested $30 million in a Pennsylvania-based company that has developed a process to produce cellulosic sugars for renewable chemicals and biofuels.

BASF, through subsidiary BASF Biorenewable Beteiligungs GmbH & Co. KG led a $50 million financing round in the technology firm Renmatix Inc.

BASFRenmatix has developed the patented Plantrose™ platform whereby industrial sugar can be produced from lignocellulosic biomass (wood, cane trash or straw). In the Plantrose technology, biomass is split into cellulose and sugar in supercritical water at high temperature and pressure in a two-step process.

Industrial sugars are important renewable resources for the chemical industry and can be used, for example, to produce biofuels or basic chemical products and intermediates by fermentative processes. The availability of industrial sugars in sufficient quantities and at favorable cost is therefore important for the competitiveness of the products.

Survey Says Consumers Consider Ethanol A Green Product

In a study released by Genencor during the BIO World Congress in Toronto, when U.S. consumers were asked to name a product they considered green, 39 percent of them named ethanol first and 31 percent of Canadian respondents also named ethanol as a green product. This is just one of results discovered in the Genencor Household Sustainability Index that researched the market potential for “green” household products with environmental benefits.

In addition, the study found that four in 10 American consumers and about a third of Canadian consumers have already heard the term “biobased” to describe various products including fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, as well as cleaning and personal care products and clothing.

“I think very clearly that they know what a green product is, but haven’t yet made the link on how we’re going to make those products green and how important biobased products are going to be,” said Tjerk de Ruiter, CEO of Genencor.

“It was very interesting to see that ethanol was at the top of the list. Now of course we were very pleased with that because ethanol is such an important product and such an important marketplace for us,” said de Ruiter. “But it also shows that the consumer really starts to buy in to the concept of the importance of home produced fuels and really the contribution that ethanol is delivering to the economy.”

Listen to my interview with Tjerk de Ruiter here: Genencor Household Sustainability Index

I asked de Ruiter how biobased enzymes, such as their product, differed from what we’ve seen in the past. “When you work with a biobased organism, you can continuously improve. If we look at the enzyme systems we have today, they are a lot more efficient allowing you to extract a lot more alcohol, or ethanol, out of the product itself, and quite often at lower temperatures and in the process reducing energy use,” said de Ruiter.

Other products consumers found to be green were detergents, cosmetics and some clothing. The survey will be used to create a baseline to determine if “biobased” products become better understood, accepted and adopted by consumers. Click here to learn more.

Click here to see photos from the 2011 BIO World Congress.

FPInnovations Now Producing Lignin for Research

Canada’s first lignin plant is operational and producing lignin for Canadian researchers according to an announcement made during the 2011 BIO World Congress. The plant is owned and operated by FPInnovations who is working in partnership with the Centre for Research and Innovation in the Bio-Economy (CRIBE), Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN) and AbitibiBowater. Lignin is a residual substance derived from the pulping process and in the biofuels process is broken down and converted into sugars, and ultimately biofuel.

The program partners are in the process of developing a black liquor and lignin evaluation centre in Thunder Bay, Ontario. At the core is the lignin demonstration plant that ties directly into the black liquor stream of AbitibiBowater’s Thunder Bay kraft pulp mill. When fully operational, this one of its kind demonstration plant will produce up to 100 kg of lignin per day, which will be shipped to a network of R&D labs across Canada that are developing novel uses for wood products. Also located in this facility is a lignin characterization lab.

Lakehead University and its Biorefining Research Initiative will be closely linked to the ongoing research and will be training students and postdoctoral fellows at the facility.

“It is with cutting‐edge technologies and strong partnerships such as this one that FPInnovations is contributing to building the future of forestry in Canada,” said Pierre Lapointe, President and Chief Executive Officer for FPInnovations. “The strong ties to Lakehead University are key to keeping technology and knowledge in the North. This only strengthens Lakehead’s Biorefining Research Initiative and other related science programs by creating linkages with labs across Canada.”

The is a huge potential market for lignin‐based products. It can be used as a green alternative to many petroleum‐derived substances, such as fuels, resins, rubber additives, thermoplastic blends, nutra‐ and pharmaceuticals, and more.

Doug Murray, General Manager of AbitibiBowater’s Thunder Bay Operations, added, “The lignin evaluation plant provides us an opportunity to move wood‐based products beyond traditional markets. We are pleased to have this innovative lab at our mill site and look forward to continued progress. We feel very fortunate to be part of this initiative.”

View pictures from the 2011 BIO World Congress in my flickr photo album.

DSM & Roquette Announce Plans for Biochemical Plant

Royal DSM used the 2011 BIO World Congress as a platform to announcement several new initiatives. Yesterday, DSM CEO Ferke Sijbesma received the George Washington Carver Award for Innovation in Industrial Biotechnology. In addition, the company was part of a funding round for Verdezyne. The latest news is that they have announced a partnership with French company Roquette Frères to build a commercial scale plant in Cassano Spinola, Italy for the production of bio-based succinic acid sourcing local biomass as their feedstocks. The bio-based chemical alternative can be used in a broad range of applications including packaging and footwear. The plant is expected to be online in the second half of 2012.

Succinic acid is a chemical building block used in the manufacture of polymers, resins, food and pharmaceuticals among other products. Bio-based succinic acid, a renewable and versatile chemical building block, is an alternative to petroleum-derived chemical building blocks such as adipic acid and 1.4-butanediol. DSM is able to produce the biochemical at a lower cost than the conventional fossil-fuel based chemical giving it an economic advantage in the marketplace.

Rob van Leen, Chief Innovation Officer of DSM, said, “The time is right to capitalize on the tremendous progress we have made together with Roquette in the last two years. Our proprietary yeast-based fermentation process not only allows cost effective production; it also eliminates salt waste and other by-products and thus improves the overall eco-footprint of end-products. This bio-based chemical building block is a substitute for various fossil feedstock derived monomers and proves that the bio-based economy is no longer a distant prospect.”

This announcement is the next in a series since the partnership began in 2008. In 2010 DSM and Roquette opened a demonstration plant in Lestrem (France), which has been running at full capacity. The two companies have also announced their intention to establish a joint venture, which will be carrying out business under the name Reverdia).

“We are very encouraged with the development efforts in several new applications and are receiving favorable feedback from customers who have sampled ton quantities from our demonstration plant in Lestrem. The new plant in Italy will allow customers in Europe, North America and Asia to make larger volume commitments to their customers,” added Jean-Bernard Leleu, Deputy CEO and RID Director of Roquette.

To view photos from the 2011 BIO World Congress visit my flickr photo album.

BP Backs Verdezyne

BP Alternative Energy Ventures and DSM Venturing B.V. have both invested in renewable fuel and chemical company Verdezyne. The two companies were part of a funding round that also included additional monies from existing investors OVP Venture Partners and Monitor Ventures. The announcement was made today during the BIO World Congress underway in Toronto.

“We are thrilled to have these two industry leaders validate Verdezyne’s technology and its business strategy by taking a stake in the company,” said E. William Radany, Verdezyne’s CEO and president. “This new funding, along with the support from existing investors, will enable the company to execute on its goal of creating and deploying first-in-class engineered yeast strains that efficiently produce biobased fuels and platform chemicals.”

According to Verdezyne, they have significantly advanced its robust yeast production platform for their ethanol and adipic acid processes. The additional financing will allow the company to continue to build its yeast metabolic engineering capabilities to produce a pipeline of renewable transportation fuels and platform chemicals.

DSM VP of Biobased Chemicals and Fuels, James Lademarco, added, “Over the past year, we have been impressed with Verdezyne’s progress in its yeast platform for both fuels and biobased chemicals. We see this investment as strategic given the complementary activities to our own portfolio within Biobased Products and Services.”

You can view photos of the 2011 BIO World Congress in my flickr photo album.

DSM CEO Wins George Washington Carver Award

Royal DSM Ceo Feike Sijbesma has received the George Washington Carver Award for Innovation in Industrial Biotechnology during BIO World Congress. In its 4th year, Sijbesma is being honored as a visionary leader of the bio-economy, an industry that the World Economic Forum projects will contribute nearly $250 billion to the world economy by 2020. Under his leadership, DSM has made several instrumental contributions in the development of industrial biotechnology that includes biochemicals, biofuels, health and nutrition and supporting sustainable development.

Sijbesma believes that over the next 100 years, the world will be shifting away from the Fossil Age into the third Green Industrial Age, an age based on not taking from the land, from developing feed, fuel and fiber from the land in a sustainable manner.

“The so-called fossil-age will make a shift to the bio-based economy. In two or three centuries from now, people will look back on our civilization as a merely brief moment in history where we in a period of just about 250 years shifted our total economy to coal, oil and gas,” said Sijbesma during his acceptance speech. “To make the shift back to living with, and especially off, nature, we need to start this shift now. We are at a turning point towards a next green industrial revolution to secure our feed and fuel needs in the future.”

Listen to my interview with Feike Sijbesma here: The Next Green Industrial Revolution Begins with Biotech

Sijbesma believes biotechnology holds the key to our future and will provide solutions for energy and food. Continue reading

GreenField Ethanol Launches G2 BioChem

The World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing (BIO World Congress) kicked off this morning in Toronto, Canada with a bang. GreenField Ethanol, the largest producer of ethanol in Canada, announced the launch of G2 BioChem, a collaborative partnership that will validate and bring to commercialization GreenField’s innovative patented process technology. The partnership includes companies such as Novozymes and Andritz and the company has been given full support from a number of federal and Ontario programs including Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), Innovation Development Fund (IDF), Sustainable Chemistry Alliance (SCA) and Center for Research and Development in the Bio-economy (CRIBE).

“G2 BioChem’s technology is feedstock agnostic and optimizes next-generation ethanol yields using all available sugars,” began Barry Wortzman, President of G2 BioChem during the press conference. “Also, our process technology results in a low cost, per litre, which is essential to the viable commercialization of next generation ethanol.”

Listen to Barry Wortzman’s remarks during the press conference: Greenfield Ethanol Launches G2 BioChem

G2 BioChem’s research team has conducted thousands of trials and demonstrated success with various feedstocks including agricultural residues such as corn stover, corn cobs and bagasse as well as energy crops such as sorghum & miscanthus and woody biomass such as poplar.

“G2 BioChem’s advanced biofuels technology has the potential to fundamentally change the burgeoning renewable fuels and biochemical industries – while protecting our environment and boosting Ontario’s economy,” said Glen Murray, Minister, Ontario Research & Innovation. Ontario boosts the third largest biotech cluster in the world.

Listen to Glen Murray’s remarks during the press conference: Murray's Remarks during G2 BioChem Press Conference

The new collaboration was in part made possible from several industry partners including Novozymes. “As a collaborative partner, Novozymes’ goal is to enable and facilitate the realization of cellulosic ethanol production at commercial scale, as quickly as possible; and in our opinion, this technology is leading the way to accomplishing that objective,” said Cynthia Bryant, Global Business Development for Novozymes.

Listen to Cynthia Bryant’s remarks during the press conference: Bryant's Remarks during G2 BioChem Press Conference

Bertil Stromberg, VP, BioFuels for Andritz added, “Andritz is excited to be partnering on this initiative, and to contribute its expertise in process equipment technology for the commercial scale up of the process.”

Listen to Bertil Stromberg’s remarks during the press conference: Stromberg's Remarks during G2 BioChem Press Conference

Check back for audio from the announcement and click here to see photos from the 2011 BIO World Congress.

BIO World Congress Preview

The World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing, hosted by BIO, is set to begin on Sunday, May 8, 2011 in Toronto. A record crowd is expected and the exhibitor hall is sold out. I’ll be on site to bring you breaking news and information about the latest biotechnology trends as they relate to biofuels and biochemicals. To get a preview of the conference, I spoke with Brent Erickson, executive vice president with BIO.

Erickson said that this conference is really dynamic on multiple levels. There are a series of plenary sessions as well as breakout sessions and workshops covering the gamut from advanced biofuels technology to algae and feedstock crops, as well as aviation fuels, renewable chemical platforms, and bi-based materials. Several events of special interest include the announcement of the George Washington Carver award and Greenfield Ethanol will be making an announcement about its cellulosic technology.

Listen to or download my interview with BIO’s Brent Erickson: BIO World Congress Preview

Two weeks ago, BIO released a white paper on policy and investments needed for the biotech industry. Erickson said these issues would be key during the World Congress. Government policy in the U.S. as well as Canada and globally will be entwined through many sessions. In addition, there will be a focus on the flow of venture capital and investment money into this space as Erickson said for many companies this is an important issue. He also said it is very heartening in this investment climate to see IPOs take place. The next IPO to take place is Solazyme.

I asked Erickson what companies or technologies he think will breakthrough over the next 6-18 months and he said what we’ll see are platforms breakthrough. He believes the biobutanol platform will take off as well as the succinic acid platform.

Be sure to follow conference conference right here beginning on Monday.

BioAmber Raises $45M to Grow Succinic Acid Platform

BioAmber Inc. has raised $45 million dollars in Series B financing with the monies used to accelerate the commercialization of succinic acid and modified PBS including the construction of a plant in North America. The round was led by NAXOS Capital Partners who helped to secure a new investor, Mitsui & Co. a Japanese trading company. The round was co-led by BioAmber’s largest shareholder, Sofinnova Partners, a leading European venture capital firm.

The money will also fund ongoing development work in the field of succinic acid. According to the company, this work includes work pertaining to the second generation organism being developed with Cargill, the technology licensed from DuPont that converts succinic acid to 1,4-butanediol (BDO), the novel purification process developed and scaled up with MATRIC, and the use of non-food feedstocks to produce biobased succinic acid.

“We were impressed by BioAmber’s management team, breadth of strategic partnerships and business model and we are very pleased to be the lead investor in this round,” said Carole Piwnica, Managing Partner of NAXOS and newly elected Vice-Chairman of BioAmber’s Board of Directors.

Jean-Francois Huc, CEO of BioAmber added, “We are proud to welcome NAXOS, which brings extensive industry experience, and Mitsui & Co., which has a global presence in biobased chemicals, and we are thankful for Sofinnova’s unwavering support. With our strong investor base and unrivaled partnerships, we are poised for rapid growth and long term market leadership.”