Genomatica and Tate & Lyle Form Strategic Partnership as CEO Explains “Feedstock Strategy”

3/15/11Follow @bvbigelow

The past couple of months have been busy for San Diego’s Genomatica, which is announcing a strategic partnership today with Tate & Lyle (LSE: TATE), a London-based food and industrial products manufacturer with extensive U.S. operations.

Just two weeks ago, Genomatica revealed it had raised $45 million in venture capital, bringing the company’s total financing to $84 million since inception. One of the key points of the recent round is that Genomatica brought in a couple of strategic investors: Bright Capital is the venture arm of RU-COM group, a diversified Russian business group with investments in industrial engineering and construction management in agriculture and other industries; and Waste Management (NYSE: WM), a leading provider of garbage management services in North America. The round also included a new venture investor, VantagePoint Venture Partners of San Bruno, CA, and existing investors Alloy Ventures, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Mohr Davidow Ventures, and TPG Biotech.

In early February, Genomatica also disclosed a strategic partnership with Waste Management to develop ways of making basic and intermediate industrial chemicals from syngas produced from municipal solid waste.

Now, with the Tate & Lyle strategic partnership, the full scope of Genomatica’s strategy is coming into view. Genomatica CEO Christophe Schilling, said in a recent interview that Tate & Lyle has extensive experience in building and operating “corn wet mills” that are used to make high fructose corn syrup and related industrial starches.

“They have a proven track record in scaling up fermentation processes,” Schilling said. “They also have some direct experience with chemicals that are related to BDO, using a facility in Decatur, IL.”

BDO, the industry shorthand for 1,4-butanediol, is an intermediate industrial chemical used to make spandex, automotive plastics, running shoes, and other products. Major chemical companies use petroleum-based feedstocks to make BDO. But Genomatica showed last year it can make “Bio-BDO,” using genetically engineered microbes and dextrose (from corn syrup) and sucrose (from sugar cane) in 3,000-liter fermentation tanks.

So the strategic partnership with Tate & Lyle represents the … Next Page »

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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