Alignment of Interests

Partnering with big-name chemical firms is only the beginning for Avantium
By Bryan Sims | July 25, 2011

Relying on the expertise and business savvy of large chemical manufacturers is a critical component for many emerging biobased chemical developers to introduce their product offerings to market as a supplement or replacement to petroleum-based counterparts. The same is true for Avantium as the Dutch biotech outfit, specializing in advanced high-throughput catalysis research and development of biobased chemicals and furnanics-based hydrocarbon fuels from its “YXY” platform, locked up deals with two of the world’s leading chemical companies.

Avantium’s first agreement is a collaborative venture with Japanese chemical manufacturer Sekisui Chemical Co. that will allow Sekisui Chemical to access Avantium’s proprietary technologies and experts as part of the suite of tools used in its development of catalysts and process optimization. While the company couldn’t disclose the process or application, Avantium spokesman Anniek Gielkens confirms that the deal isn’t related to its YXY technology.

In a subsequent deal, Avantium entered into a multiyear partnership with Solvay Specialty Polymers to jointly explore the commercial potential of engineering plastics derived from high-performance polyamides using biobased feedstock, such as starches or sugars, on the basis of Avantium’s YXY building blocks. Solvay will test the polyamides for engineering applications such as for nylons and Kevlar that can be used in automotive and electronic components.

“We expect that these new materials will be competitive in price and performance compared to petroleum-based products, but will have a significantly enhanced environmental footprint,” Gielkens says. In addition to exploring the market for biobased polyamides, Avantium is also focused on the development of biobased polyethylene furanoate (PEF), a biobased alternative to petroleum-based polyethylene-terephthalate (PET). 

—Bryan Sims