Neuron Bio acquires pilot plant

By Erin Voegele | September 08, 2011

Spain-based Neuron Bio recently announced it has commissioned a pilot-scale fermentation plant. According to the company, the new plant will be used to scale up the production of yeast, bacteria and algae as part of its own research and development efforts. It will also be used to scale up biorefining processes for third-party companies. Neuron Bio CEO Javier Velasco said the equipment will be operational by October.

The pilot plant employs a batch process, and can produce 400 liters (106 gallons) of culture at a time. It also provides for the subsequent recovery and purification of the bioproducts cultivated in it. Information released by Neuron Bio states that it has invested €500,000 ($706,550) in the plant. The equipment will be installed provisionally in the the Ogíjares industrial park until construction of Neuron Bio’s new building in the Granada Heath-Sciences Technology Park is complete.

According to Neuron Bio, it’s acquisition of the pilot plant will allow the company to do more work in-house, permitting the optimizing and improvement of its production processes while allowing significant savings in rental costs. The company intends to expand its bioprocess-development-service portfolio and offer advanced scale-up services to agro-food, chemical, pharmaceutical and biofuel companies. Velasco said about 75 percent of the work completed on the plant will be focused on Neuron Bio’s processes.

Neuron Bio specializes in the development of biobased process solutions for the chemical, energy, pharmaceutical and agro-food industries through its three divisions: BioPharma, BioIndustrial and Innofood by Neuron. The bioindustrial division, Neuron BioIndustrial, focuses on the development of biorefining processes for application in the chemical and biofuels sectors.

Under the Neuron BioIndustrial umbrella, the company has developed several processes, including the Microbiotools Platform. “Neuron BioIndustrial’s main goal is to provide efficient and environmental-friendly solutions to the industry,” Velasco said. “To achieve such objective, the division owns a large microorganism library and counts on highly-qualified researchers to develop an innovative technology platform.”

 According to the company, the Microbiotools Platform was created on the basis of Neuron Bio’s exclusive collection of more than 8,000 microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, yeasts, and algae, that were isolated from extreme ecosystems. Achievements the company lists under the platform include MicroBioOil and TriBioPlast.

MicroBioOil allows for a 2 to 3 percent increase in productivity at a biodiesel plant. The process achieves this by converting raw glycerin into a new raw material. This is achieved through a selection of microorganisms, which consume the glycerin and convert it into oil, which can be used as feedstock for additional biodiesel production.  “Raw glycerin from the biodiesel industry, or sugars from lignocellulsoic biomass hydrolysates, is consumed quickly by an oleaginous microorganism selected by Neuron BioIndustrial,” Velasco said. “Under specific culture conditions, this strain is able to convert glycerin or sugars into oil, which can be used further as raw material for the production of different types of biofuels. [Both] the process and the microorganism have been fully developed by Neuron BioIndustrial and are patented.”

Alternatively, TriBioPlast is a development-stage process that produces biobased plastics from industrial byproducts. “TriBioPlast is a process for the production of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) by fermentation,” Velasco said. “The process is based on the culture of bacterium belonging to Neuron BioIndustrial. These biopolymers are especially innovative in being both biocompatible and biodegradable.”