OPXBio hits key production milestone for bioacrylic acid

By Bryan Sims | March 29, 2012

Boulder, Colo.-based OPX Biotechnologies Inc. has achieved a significant production milestone toward the commercialization of its first target market offering, a biobased alternative to petroleum-derived acrylic acid called BioAcrylic, by successfully demonstrating its fermentation process at the 3,000-liter (792.5 gallon) scale.

“Scale-up milestones are big proof points in this industry,” stated Charles (Chas) Eggert, president and CEO of OPXBio. “We have increased the size of our BioAcrylic fermentations by more than 300 times with good results. This gives us even more confidence we’re on the right track.”

OPXBio utilizes its proprietary conversion platform, trademarked EDGE (Efficiency Directed Genome Engineering), to produce biobased chemicals like BioAcrylic at a lower cost than petroleum-derived products. Last April, OPXBio and Dow Chemical Co. signed a joint development agreement to prove the technical and economic viability of an industrial-scale process to produce BioAcrylic using fermentable sugar such as corn or cane sugar as feedstock.

According to the company, OPXBio anticipates full commercialization of its BioAcrylic within three to five years, adding that it intends to bring BioAcrylic into the $10 billion global market for acrylic acid, which is used in a variety of consumer and industrial products such as diapers, detergents, paints, coatings and adhesives.

To successfully scale up its BioAcrylic production process, OPXBio worked with the Michigan Biotechnology Institute, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Michigan State University Foundation located in Lansing that works alongside early-stage innovative companies like OPXbio to derisk their novel technology while scaling up.

“Based on our 30 years of experience bringing lab innovations to commercialization, OPXBio’s rate of progress on BioAcrylic is impressive,” said Bobby Bringi, president and CEO of MBI. “The successful campaign at the 3,000-liter scale positions OPXBio and its partners well to accelerate their commercialization efforts.”

MBI was founded as a 501(c)(3) company in 1981 by a State of Michigan economic task force, and funded initially by state, federal and private foundation investments. Over the past 25 years, MBI has built a successful track record of innovation in industrial biotechnology, and has commercialized various products and processes through joint ventures and early stage companies. MBI has also developed a solid reputation among its extensive network of university, government and industry partners.

Concurrent to the commercialization of BioAcrylic, OPXBio has also demonstrated lab-scale production of its second product—fatty acid derived from syngas via a fermentation pathway—for chemical and fuel applications. The company was awarded a $6 million grant by the U.S. DOE in April 2010 to support this development.