Verdezyne proves adipic acid production process

By Lisa Gibson
California-based Verdezyne Inc. has achieved proof of concept in developing a new biobased fermentation process for the production of adipic acid, and intends to partner for scale-up demonstration in the next year.

Using proprietary technologies, the company discovered and is engineering a proprietary metabolic pathway that can utilize sugar, plant-based oils or alkanes, according to Verdezyne. "We have so far produced adipic from alkanes and fatty acids," said Damien Perriman, vice president of business development for Verdezyne. "We are leveraging the same organism and pathway to utilize sugar as well. Our goal is to deliver a process that enables the operator to select the appropriate feedstock for their region to maximize their profit curve."

Rather than manipulating one pathway gene at a time, the company uses synthetic gene libraries to introduce diversity into a metabolic pathway, according to Verdezyne. Biological selection or high-throughput screening identifies the most productive combination of pathway genes.

Verdezyne is still in discussions regarding a partnership for a pilot-scale project, Perriman said. "We plan to select a partner with the expertise to work on fermentation optimization utilizing both alkane and sugar feedstocks," he said. "The selected partner will determine location of facility, scale and timeline. Our proof of concept means we have produced small amounts of adipic and our next milestone will be to boost productivity of the organism before entering pilot scale."

The global adipic acid market was about $4.9 billion in 2009 with its two major applications being polyamides and polyurethanes. Adipic acid is an important engineering resin for markets such as automotive, footwear and construction, and is used in products such as carpets, coatings, furniture, bedding and automobile parts.

Estimates from Verdezyne indicate at least a 20 percent cost of manufacturing advantage for biobased adipic acid, depending on the feedstock, according to E. William Radany, president and CEO of Verdezyne. The company anticipates the growing consumption of adipic acid will exceed capacity by 2015, leading to a necessary increase in production facilities.