Avantium secures funding to accelerate YXY technology

By Bryan Sims | June 14, 2011

The Netherlands-based biotech outfit Avantium has successfully raised EUR 30 million ($43.3 million) in a financing round to advance its novel and proprietary catalytic process to convert natural sugars into furanic building blocks on the basis of its YXY platform technology. New investors Sofinnova Partners, Aster Captial and De Hoge Dennen as well as existing investors Aescap Venture, Capricorn Cleantech Fund, ING Corporate Investments and Navitas Capital all participated in the round.

According to Avantium, the funds will be used toward the construction and operation of its pilot plant in Geleen, the Netherlands where it will focus on the development of a biobased plastic material called polyethylene furanoate (PEF), a biobased alternative to traditional fossil-based polyethylene-terephthalate (PET). In April, the company announced it had successfully started up its 40-ton-per-year (approximately 11,000 gallon) polyester pilot plant at the Chemelot site. The polyester plant is the first part of the pilot plant that Avantium is building at its new site to demonstrate its YXY technology for biobased materials and fuels. The biobased monomer production portion of the pilot plant is scheduled to become operational later this year, according to the company.

The operation of the polyester pilot plant is an important step in Avantium's development of PEF. According to Avantium, PEF has numerous superior properties over PET, including barrier properties (oxygen, carbon-dioxide and water) and its ability to withstand heat. Avantium touts that its YXY technology “makes it possible to produce 100 percent biobased and 100 percent recyclable polyester”. Avantium is actively working on the development of PEF bottles for water, soft drinks, fruit juices, alcoholic drinks, food, diary, cosmetic products, soaps and detergents. In parallel, the firm is developing PEF fibers for textile, carpet and industrial applications, as well as other materials such as polyamides and coatings.

“The strong support of our current stakeholders and our ability to attract such reputable investors validate the potential of our technology and products,” said Avantium CEO Tom van Aken. “This funding will allow us to prove our process on a larger scale and to do application testing in collaboration with brand owners and industrial partners.”

Among those industrial partners van Aken referred to include NatureWorks LLC, a subsidiary of Cargill, and Teijin Aramid to develop novel materials based on its YXY building blocks. Avantium also collaborates with DAF Trucks, a Paccar company, on the development of YXY fuels.