GlycosBio expands to Malaysia

By Lisa Gibson
Texas-based Glycos Biotechnologies Inc. is expanding its biochemical production capabilities to Malaysia under an agreement with Malaysian Bio-XCell Sdn. Bhd., a government-supported industrial ecosystem focused on the advancement of biotechnology in the country.

The two will collaborate on the construction of a biochemical and biotechnology facility within Bio-XCell's industrial park in Malaysia. The center will include a research and development lab, along with a 20,000-metric-ton (22,000 tons) commercial biochemical production facility that will manufacture acetone, technical-grade ethanol and isoprene, according Rich Cilento, GlycosBio CEO.

Research and production at the facility will use waste products from the palm oil industry including crude glycerin and fatty acids, Cilento said. No contracts for supply are in place as yet, but several companies have shown an interest in providing their waste streams for the process. GlycosBio takes a unique approach to biochemicals production, using mostly waste streams, especially glycerin, in lieu of sugars, which are more commonly utilized in such processes. "It's sort of hand in glove with our technology," Cilento says of the decision to expand to Malaysia. "Their natural resources align with our feedstock strategy. They don't have a lot of sugar." The country also has a long-standing oleochemicals industry, he added. "It completely makes sense for us to have a long-standing partnership with them."

The Malaysian government, through its Biotechnology Corp., is promoting and encouraging a biochemical industry through financial support for companies willing to expand there. "Their program is to support entirely the cost to construct and purchase equipment," Cilento said, adding that a cost estimate has not yet been established and, through a long-term agreement, GlycosBio will pay it back. The developing biochemicals industry will be both for domestic and export markets, he said, although the country only has a population of about 25 million to 30 million. "Malaysia doesn't have a huge addressable market. Most will be more than likely export."

Bio-Xcell's industrial park is the perfect location for the plant, Cilento said, as all the infrastructure is already in place. Construction is scheduled to begin in the third quarter of this year and to be completed in 2012, followed shortly by operation.
"Ultimately, our goal will be to show that we can integrate into an existing oleochemical plant to make an additional chemical," Cilento said.