DEINOVE, a biotech company developing innovative processes for producing biofuels and bio-based chemicals by using Deinococcus bacteria, says it has completed conclusive proof-of-concept for the production of muconic acid by a Deinococcus bacterium and has decided to launch a new R&D platform in this field. (Earlier post.)
Using proprietary metabolic engineering tools, DEINOVE R&D has successfully designed a Deinococcus bacterium capable of producing renewable muconic acid, a particularly sought-after chemical intermediate, from a variety of feedstocks.
This project’s development, alongside the Deinol and Deinochem programs, is based on analysis of the technical and economic opportunities and competitive landscape:
At the technical level, the physiology of Deinococcus is well-suited for the production of this molecule, providing a critical competitive advantage compared with other alternatives. Indeed, the aerobic muconic acid production is close to the normal physiology of these bacteria and their metabolic flow is more favorable to this fermentation than other reference microorganisms.
At the commercial level, muconic acid is a versatile chemical intermediate whose derivatives—caprolactam, terephthalic acid (a precursor to PET) and adipic acid—are widely used in the plastics industry (notably for automotive and packaging applications), the production of synthetic fibers for textiles or industry (mainly nylon) and food (acidifying agent). The combined annual market value of these products is estimated to be worth several tens of billions of dollars.
Currently, these molecules rely on non-sustainable, price-fluctuating benzene and cyclohexane. There is a strong demand for the production of identical bio-based alternatives such as in green bottling, the nylon industry and food applications.
The existence of a significant market, a real demand and a favorable production economic equation led Deinove to develop a program for bio-based muconic acid production.
There is no doubt that a bio-based solution needs to be developed to complement the conventional chemical process used to produce these muconic acid derivatives. The feedback we got from our industrial and financial contacts was clear and confirmatory that this is a biochemistry with tremendous potential, but looking for a solution. This is one of the few chemistries where the biological route appears superior to the oil-based catalytic conversions, as long as the fermentation solution provides key performance points. DEINOVE can bring a game-changing solution to the industry, by leveraging the benefits of a high-temperature Deinococcus-based oligomeric fermentation.—Nagib Ward, Executive VP, Business Development at DEINOVE
According to Rodney Rothstein, Professor of Genetics and Development at Columbia University Medical Center in New York and member of the DEINOVE Board of Directors, the main challenges facing the bioproduction of muconic acid at effective conversion rates have been known for about ten years.
The extent of the genetic modifications needed to achieve this bioconversion has slowed progress toward production on an industrial scale. By using Deinococcus, which naturally produces very high levels of the key intermediate in the pathway, a significant part of the metabolic engineering will not be required. Combined with high aerobic kinetics, this achievement in Deinococcus represents considerable progress compared with existing technologies based on other microorganisms.—Rodney Rothstein
Proof of concept has been reached and will be followed by engineering phases aimed at increasing the strain’s performance under conditions closer to industrialization. Spread over a few years, and benefiting from the pioneering foundation work of the DEINOL platform, DEINOVE expects to develop this program at a competitive pace. In parallel, the company has engaged in discussions with several interested industrial contacts that would bring significant and synergistic upsides to this new DEINOVE program.