Genomatica Gets Patents for “Sustainable” Methods to Make Nylon Precursor

10/19/10Follow @bvbigelow

San Diego-based Genomatica, which has been developing “green” ways of using microbes to produce an industrial chemical called 1, 4 butanediol (BDO), said Tuesday the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted it two foundational patents for another key industrial chemical— adipic acid.

Adipic acid is used to make nylon, and it has existing market estimated at more than $5.2 billion. BDO is a chemical used to make automotive plastics, running shoes, and Spandex fibers, with an estimated $3 billion market. Both are known as “intermediate chemicals” that are valuable because they are precursor chemicals needed to make other products—and until now they have both been made only in petrochemical refineries from crude oil or natural gas.

Genomatica’s patent claims could prove vexatious to other companies that also have been developing sustainable methods for manufacturing adipic acid, including Carlsbad, CA-based Veredezyne and Menlo Park, CA-based Rennovia.

Genomatica Adipic Acid fermenterGenomatica, which describes itself as a leader in the sustainable chemicals revolution, says the two breakthroughs demonstrate how to use make one of the most useful materials known, using green processes.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Genomatica says its patent number 7,799,545, titled “Microorganisms for the production of adipic acid and other compounds,” describes how to produce a “green” version of key intermediate chemicals used to produce nylon.

Genomatica’s patent number 7,803,589, called “Methods and organisms for utilizing synthesis gas or other gaseous carbon sources and methanol,” describes how to engineer an organism to use syngas as a feedstock to make green, sustainably produced versions of major chemical products. In its statement, the company explains, “this is significant because syngas is generally less expensive than other renewable feedstocks, and can be sourced from a wide variety of raw materials including biomass or municipal solid waste—garbage.

As a result, Genomatica says its now-proprietary technology provides a platform for creating numerous other major high-value chemicals at a lower cost.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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