Genomatica, Mitsubishi Chemical explore Asian bio-BDO operation

By Bryan Sims | March 01, 2012

California-based Genomatica and Japan-based global chemical manufacturer Mitsubishi Chemical Corp. have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to exclusively negotiate definitive agreements for a joint commercial operation in Asia for the production of biobased butanediol (BDO) using Genomatica’s process technology.

Mitsubishi made an upfront payment to Genomatica of $3.5 million while the companies continue to work toward completing their definitive agreements, some or all of which may be repaid upon certain conditions. Both companies will negotiate in good faith terms of definitive agreements for the collaborations described in the MOU.

The agreement builds on a previously announced MOU between the companies signed last April and an equity investment by Mitsubishi into Genomatica in December 2010, strengthening the partnership between the two. Mitsubishi Chemical Corp., the eighth largest chemical maker in the world and subsidiary of Mitsubishi Holdings Group, is a publicly traded company listed on the Tokyo exchange with annual revenues of approximately $38 billion.

“Genomatica is a technology leader, especially in the strategically important field of C4 chemicals,” said Shigeru Handa, general manager of the sustainable resources business development department of Mitsubishi Chemical. “Their BDO process has the potential to provide market-leading economics and sustainability consistent with our concept of Kaiteki, the global quality of life that will be made possible through sustainable technologies and through breakthrough scientific advances in human healthcare.”

Genomatica employs a unique technology platform designed to identify the most efficient biochemical pathways and selects the most effective microorganisms to convert cellulosic sugar feedstocks into target biochemicals, leading to optimal process technologies developed in a capital-efficient manner. Its intellectual property currently targets processes that are capable of producing more than 20 intermediate and basic chemicals, including BDO and butadiene, which are precursors used in the manufacture of polymer compounds such as polybutylene terephthalate and polytetramethylene glycol.

“We are looking forward to supporting our partner Mitsubishi as they look to implement and deploy our process in one of the fastest-growing markets in the world,” stated Christophe Schilling, CEO of Genomatica. “As a major producer and consumer of BDO and its derivatives, including PBT and PTMG, Mitsubishi brings tremendous market knowledge and application expertise, and is well-positioned to leverage the differentiation that can be gained from a renewable approach to producing BDO.”