The Business of Biobutanol

Acquisitions, patent infringement disputes continue
By Erin Voegele | January 09, 2012

Eastman Chemical Co. ventured into the biobutanol space in November when its subsidiary Eastman Renewable Materials LLC acquired TetraVitae Biosciences Inc. and its assets. TetraVitae Biosciences is a developer of biobutanol and bioacetone, which are platform intermediates in the production of a variety of products, including coatings, molded plastics and personal care products. The company’s technology features the use of Clostridium Beijerinckii BA 101, a proprietary, mutant, nongenetically modified organism. To date, TetraVitae Bioscience’s process has been demonstrated through the retrofit of a corn ethanol demonstration facility at the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center at Southern Illinois University.

“This announcement is a demonstration of Eastman’s continued investment in innovation and our commitment to delivering sustainable solutions to our customers,” says Greg Nelson, senior vice president and chief technology officer of Eastman. “I am confident that TetraVitae’s patented biocatalysis technology will provide Eastman an excellent platform for the development of a range of biobased processes that will strengthen our sustainable product offerings.”

Meanwhile, Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC announced the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued reexamination decisions regarding one of its foundational patents—U.S. Patent No. 7,993,889 (’889 Patent)—which Butamax asserts has been infringed upon by Gevo Inc. The USPTO has agreed to grant Gevo’s petition to reexamine the ‘889 Patent, and recently denied reexamination of a separate Butamax patent, U.S. Patent No. 7,851,188. A hearing on a motion for a preliminary injunction to halt Gevo’s infringement is scheduled for early this year. 

—Erin Voegele