San Diego-based Genomatica, a technology leader for bio-based chemicals, has acquired certain assets of the REG Life Sciences division (REG LS) of Renewable Energy Group, Inc., the largest supplier of advanced biofuels in North America. Genomatica intends to use these assets to develop a wider range of sustainable chemicals which in turn are used to make numerous everyday materials and products.
The asset acquisition provides Genomatica with its third major product platform, allowing it to expand into household and industrial cleaning products, and flavors and fragrances, further growing its ingredients for the apparel, packaging and personal care markets.
Genomatica will also work with ExxonMobil to progress the research program for advanced biofuels from biomass started at REG LS, along with Clariant, which recently joined the collaboration.
Genomatica’s acquisition is designed to create more technology solutions to help brands and their suppliers meet increasing consumer demand for sustainable products by incorporating renewable or bio-based chemicals into their product offerings.
According to a recent Nielsen survey, 81% of global consumers say it’s extremely or very important for companies to implement programs to improve the environment, while 73% said they would either definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment. Ninety percent of millennials will pay more for products that contain environmentally friendly or sustainable ingredients.
“Consumer demand for sustainable products continues to grow, and successful companies will increasingly switch to ingredients that reduce harm to the environment and work with partners with shared values,” said Christophe Schilling, Genomatica’s CEO. “This acquisition adds powerful technology and talent to help Genomatica enhance the sustainability of everyday products.”
The acquisition enhances Genomatica’s ability to make “long-chain” chemicals from renewable feedstocks. These chemicals are widely used to make products such as surfactants, cosmetics, solvents, polymers, fuels and food ingredients. They range from eight to 18 carbon atoms in length and may contain multiple functional groups, resulting in long-chain alcohols, esters, acids, ketones, aldehydes, alkanes, amines, amides and branched products. Today, these chemicals are broadly referred to as oleochemicals, as they are typically derived from palm oil, vegetable oils or animal fats, or synthetically from fossil feedstocks such as petroleum. Genomatica’s approach of making them via fermentation from natural, plant-based sugars or biomass-based feedstocks is more sustainable and environmentally friendly, and provides new functional (performance) attributes.
The selected assets include technology for making drop-in long-chain chemicals and various novel and proprietary products being researched and/or under development. Genomatica is adding over 550 active patents and applications to bring its portfolio to over 1,500 offerings. The core group of REG LS team members will join Genomatica at its San Diego Innovation Center to continue driving the platform and contributing to broader innovation efforts at Genomatica.
“Genomatica’s strengths will help us realize our journey by scaling sustainable chemicals for mainstream applications,” said Fernando Sanchez-Riera, formerly the vice president, R&D, REG LS, and who has now joined Genomatica to lead the continued development of the long-chain platform. “Between the terrific people, culture and energy, we see a common vision and a natural fit.”
The long-chain platform adds to Genomatica’s existing “C4” platform, which has already delivered commercial products for bio-based 1,4-butanediol (used for biodegradable plastics and apparel) and for butylene glycol (cosmetics and personal care), and to its “C6” platform, with numerous chemicals under development including bio-based caprolactam (to make 100% renewable nylon, for apparel and carpet).