BioAmber, Genomatica receive presidential green chemistry award

By Bryan Sims | June 23, 2011

Biorefining firms like Genomatica and BioAmber recognize the impactful nature their research and development activities will someday have, and so does the U.S. EPA. On June 20 in Washington, D.C., the nation’s environmental regulatory agency, in conjunction with the American Chemical Society, honored both companies with the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for their respective achievements in breakthrough technology development.

San Diego-based Genomatica received an award for “Production of High-Volume Chemicals from Renewable Feedstocks at Lower Cost” under the “greener synthetic pathways” category. The award recognized both the breadth of Genomatica’s potential industry impact and the tangible commercialization milestones for its first target product offering, 1,4 butanediol (Bio-BDO) made from renewable sources such as conventional sugars, cellulosic biomass and syngas. 1,4 butanediol is an intermediate chemical used to make a host of industrial and consumer products, including spandex and automotive plastics. It’s estimated that the global market for 1,4 butanediol is worth approximately $4 billion.

Genomatica’s milestones include partnerships with Mitsubishi Chemical Corp., Tate & Lyle, Gruppo Mossi & Ghisolfi and Waste Management. Additionally, the company recently announced it had achieved demonstration-scale production volumes of its Bio-BDO and on schedule in a 13,000-liter tank in Decatur, Ill., at the facility of partner Tate & Lyle.

“We’re working to green intermediate and basic chemicals while delivering better economics,” said Genomatica CEO Christophe Schilling. “We believe this will help transform the supply chain and make thousands of products more sustainable. We’re honored and humbled to receive the same award as leaders like Dow, BASF and DuPont.” 

Plymouth, Minn.-based BioAmber earned an award for “Integrated Production and Downstream Applications of Biobased Succinic Acid” under the small business category. BioAmber is recognized for integrated production and downstream applications of biobased succinic acid and for creating a portfolio of renewable chemicals and polymers that are derived from succinic acid. Its portfolio includes modified polybutylene succinate (mPBS), a novel, high-temperature biopolymer. The company’s biosuccinic acid can also be a viable substitute for other chemicals like adipic acid in traditional polymers and serve as the starting material for the production of chemicals such as 1,4 butanediol and tetrahydrofuran (THF).

BioAmber has established partnerships across its value chain that helped accelerate the scale up and commercialization of its succinic acid technology. These partnerships include Mitsui & Co. and Mitsubishi Chemicals in Asia, Cargill Inc., DuPont and Matric in North America, and ARD and Siclae in Europe. The company currently has a biosuccinic acid production plant in Europe and will begin construction of a second production plant in North America this year.

“BioAmber has successfully combined biotechnology and chemistry to develop a sustainable, cost-competitive process for making succinic acid and derivatives that include butanediol,” said Jim Millis, chief technology officer for BioAmber. “We are pioneers in biobased chemicals and materials and we are honored that the EPA and ACS have recognized our accomplishments and leadership in the field of succinic. Our success story is a great example of open innovation and we accept this award on behalf of all our development partners.”

2011 marks the 16th year of the EPA’s Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award Program, which recognizes breakthrough achievements in innovative, clean technology development. Biotech firms Codexis and LS9 Inc. earned similar honors last year. To see more past winners or to learn more about the EPA’s Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award Program, click here.