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Waste Management and Genomatica enter strategic joint development agreement to produce chemicals from MSW syngas

Waste Management and Genomatica, an industrial biotech company targeting sustainable chemicals (earlier post), have formed a strategic joint development agreement to research and advance Genomatica’s technology and manufacturing processes to enable production of intermediate and basic chemicals from syngas made from municipal solid waste.

Under the agreement, Genomatica will create proprietary, specially-designed organisms and complete manufacturing processes to efficiently and economically convert syngas into chemical products. Genomatica’s patents, intellectual property and technology platform should facilitate further refinement of organisms and processes to allow chemical production from syngas produced from locally-available waste with varying characteristics. Biological production of chemicals would provide another potential use for any syngas produced by or for Waste Management through anaerobic digestion, gasification and landfill gas.

Waste Management wants to maximize the value of the materials it manages. Genomatica’s technology complements Waste Management’s advancement of thermo-chemical conversion and fermentation technology platforms.

—Tim Cesarek, managing director of Organic Growth at Waste Management

Genomatica is already on a path to deliver sustainable, lower-cost, smaller-footprint chemicals made from renewable feedstocks, including various commercially-available sugars, rather than from oil or natural gas. This agreement accelerates our initiatives to provide greater feedstock flexibility, by enabling the use of syngas to produce a range of chemicals, and in particular, syngas derived from waste materials. Together with Waste Management we are seeking to create greater value from waste material, while adding to Genomatica’s ability to deliver more sustainable, lower-cost manufacturing to the chemical industry.

—Christophe Schilling, chief executive officer of Genomatica

Syngas is produced from natural gas or liquid hydrocarbons, and through the gasification of coal, biomass, and waste materials. Syngas is a low-cost input material used to generate electricity, and can also be converted into liquid fuels. Converting syngas to chemicals has primarily been done through chemical processing techniques, which were generally energy-intensive and limited in their ability to produce specific chemical products.

Genomatica has developed a comprehensive, integrated metabolic engineering and bio-process development platform that combines predictive computational modeling (the ‘SimPheny’ collection of proprietary software tools) with process modeling and advanced experimental lab technology. Supported by the new joint development agreement, Genomatica is working to enable the conversion of syngas into desired, major-market intermediate and basic chemicals.

The agreement follows a successful move by Genomatica to advance the company’s first commercial product, a green Bio-BDO (1,4-butanediol), made from renewable feedstocks rather than oil or natural gas. BDO, an intermediate chemical with a $4 billion market worldwide, is used to make spandex, automotive plastics, running shoes and more. Genomatica’s platform technology could be applied to create a range of high-volume intermediate and basic chemicals, from a range of renewable feedstocks.

The joint development agreement with Genomatica complements Waste Management’s comprehensive waste services in the areas of recycling, landfill, waste-to-energy and landfill gas-to-energy. This agreement will also help move Waste Management toward meeting three of its sustainability goals: doubling its renewable energy production and tripling the amount of recyclables processed by 2020, and investing in emerging technologies for managing waste.

Genomatica’s integrated bio-process engineering platform and extensive intellectual property allow it to rapidly develop organisms and processes for dozens of the most significant intermediate and basic chemicals. Genomatica has raised $40 million from Alloy Ventures, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Mohr Davidow Ventures, and TPG Biotech.



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