How a do-it-yourself approach sets Verdezyne apart from the rest

| January 23, 2012

The team at Verdezyne Inc. has taken a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach to the production of adipic acid, starting with its new pilot-scale production facility in Carlsbad, Calif. That DIY approach might help the company, which features former employees of companies like Synthetic Genomics, DuPont and Codexis, meet its goals to bring biobased nylon to market soon.

In July of last year the team began turning an empty building into a production facility capable of putting the company’s novel fermentation and genetically modified yeast technology to work. “There was nothing there,” Bill Radany, president and CEO told Biorefining Magazine. “We completely built out all of the utilities, the water and the steam.” Some of the staff had experience building out similar facilities, according to Radany, and the operational equipment such as the fermentation tanks or centrifugation systems were bought off the shelf.

The company’s go-it-alone spirit doesn’t end with its pilot facility. Unlike other biobased chemical producers, Verdezyne is one of the only producers that aren’t focused on feedstocks like sugarcane. Radany said three years ago the team looked at the opportunity to take its skill set of altering organisms to produce high-value products to the biobased markets. “We looked at the gold rush on Brazilian sugarcane and said, ‘If we don’t have a feedstock relationship now, it might be tough to get in line,’” he said. So the team developed an organism that can use waste streams from vegetable oil processing—ones that aren't used for food or biodiesel production.

“Nobody is using these materials to make a biobased chemical right now,” so Radany said the company is not in competition with food or those in the biobased chemical business.

The feedstock strategy at Verdezyne isn’t only about using what no one else is. For Radany, it’s about going where no one else can go. “We can use feedstocks from around the globe,” he explained. “We can use soybean oil processed around the states or in China. We can use coconut oil in southeast Asia, or any number of other vegetable oil waste streams.” What does that all mean for the company? For Verdezyne, it means, as Radany said, having the flexibility of not being tied to sugarcane in Brazil.

Even with the successful startup of the pilot facility, the company is already looking at commercial opportunities. According to Radany, Verdezyne is already talking to end-users and feedstock suppliers. “Obviously there is a demand,” he pointed out, “a green pull from the folks like Timberland, Nike, Adidas or Patagonia, for a green nylon.”