OPXBIO raises funds to commercialize biobased acrylic acid

By Bryan Sims | July 11, 2011

Boulder, Colo.-based OPX Biotechnologies Inc. raised $36.5 million in a Series C round of private equity financing to accelerate the development and commercialization of its first target product offering, a biobased alternative to acrylic acid, called BioAcrylic. The financing was led by US Renewables Group, which also included new investor DBL Investors. The round also saw strong participation from existing investors Mohr Davidow Ventures, Braemar Energy Ventures, Altira Group and X/Seed Capital.

During an 18-month pilot-scale program completed in February, OPXBIO demonstrated the scale-up efficiency of its proprietary Efficiency Directed Genome Engineering (EDGE) technology to make performance-equivalent BioAcrylic that is lower cost and more sustainable than petroleum-based acrylic acid. In April, OPXBIO and Dow Chemical Co. signed a joint development agreement to prove the technical and economic viability of an industrial-scale process to produce BioAcrylic using a fermentable sugar (such as corn and/or cane sugar) as feedstock. OPXBIO anticipates full commercialization of its BioAcrylic within three to five years.

“We welcome USRG and DBL Investors to the OPXBIO investor team and are encouraged by their recognition of our technical and business development progress and value-creation potential,” said Charles Eggert, president and CEO of OPXBIO. “With strong investor support, a world-class team and technology platform and a powerful strategic development relationship with Dow, OPXBIO is extending its leadership position in the emerging renewable chemicals industry.”

According to OPXBIO, the acrylic acid market is worth an estimated $8 billion and is growing 3 to 4 percent per year. Acrylic acid is a key chemical building block used in a wide range of consumer goods including paints, adhesives, diapers and detergents.

“OPXBIO is clearly leading the industry in addressing a large, growing global demand for economic, renewable alternatives to petro-based chemicals,” said Jonathan Koch, managing director at USRG who also joined the OPXBIO board of directors. “Powered by a proven technology platform and manufacturing process and an exceptionally strong management team, OPXBIO has demonstrated a superior ability to rapidly develop and commercialize multiple products to penetrate multi-billion existing markets.”

In addition to the development and commercialization of BioAcrylic, OPXBIO is concurrently working on developing its second product—biodiesel processed from carbon dioxide and hydrogen via a fermentation pathway. The company was awarded a $6 million grant by the U.S. DOE in April 2010 to support this development.