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

3/15/11Follow @bvbigelow

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lower-cost sugars from biomass sorghum, energy cane, switchgrass, and related cellulosic biomass. “I’m optimistic that we’ll be announcing some pretty significant partnerships in that area as well,” Schilling said.

Beyond cellulosic biomass, though, Schilling said Genomatica is undertaking research and development to develop syngas (a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen) that represents the potentially lowest-cost feedstock for making intermediate industrial chemicals. In this respect, Schilling said, “Waste Management is an ideal partner for us. The have a fascinating strategy that’s really forward-looking in terms of using their waste streams at landfills.”

Waste Management already captures enormous quantities of methane gas that’s produced by decomposing organic matter, and has been developing plans to produce syngas by burning municipal solid waste to extremely high temperatures.

Schilling said Syngas is traditionally used to make methanol, one of the top seven most commonly used basic industrial chemicals. Syngas also can be converted into diesel fuel, using “Fischer-Tropsch chemistry.”

“Where we come in is to take syngas and develop ways to make higher-value chemicals, which represent the highest value per ton,” Schilling said. In short, he said Genomatica’s “feedstock strategy” is to make industrial chemicals from sugars today, from biomass tomorrow, and from syngas in the future. Using Genomatica’s expertise in computational modeling, Schilling said, “We can identify the best ways to use syngas as a raw material. It really opens the door to a whole range of other opportunities—and using biology to make target chemicals offers certain advantages over chemistry.”

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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