“We are hoping that the next US government will take climate change seriously and will take material steps to improve its leadership on the global stage.”
To say it – in this exclusive interview with Il Bioeconomista – is Matt Lipscomb, CEO of DMC Bio, the US company which is producing bio-based chemicals using fermentation.
Interview by Mario Bonaccorso
Dr Lipscomb, a direct question immediately after the US Presidential election: what does the election of Joe Biden mean for the American bioeconomy and the fight against climate change?
We are hoping that the next US government will take climate change seriously and will take material steps to improve its leadership on the global stage. An important first step in the US will be to change the conversation from having to (falsely) choose between the environment and the economy to acknowledging that solutions exist today that have favorable outcomes for both the economy and climate change. This should be positive for the bioeconomy in the US.
What is the bioeconomy from your point of view?
The bioeconomy is an opportunity to make everyday products more affordable and more sustainable. With technologies like ours, there is no need to compromise on sustainability or price. We’ve seen during the pandemic that being too dependent on imports from overseas is a real risk. The bioeconomy is a powerful tool to re-energize regional agricultural supply chains.
DMC Bio is a company active in the field of biochemicals. What are your strengths? And how does your technology work?
We use microbial fermentation to produce biobased specialty chemicals. Our metabolic engineering process simplifies biology to make fermentation more predictable, robust, and efficient. Our technology combines a standardized, two-stage fermentation process with dynamic programming to allow the microbes to be optimized for greater efficiency and productivity. The net result is a dramatic reduction in the cost and timeline required to bring a product to scale at commercial performance metrics.
As far as you’re concerned, what helps an innovative company like yours to grow and be competitive in international markets?
Building a successful biotechnology business is about more than science. We’ve seen many companies with good technology fail because they didn’t have a viable business model. At DMC, we’re building a sustainable business by delivering on both sustainability and economic viability. The specialty chemicals markets that we serve are global, so it is important for us to be competitive across multiple geographic regions. Building the right partnerships across the value chain (financial, manufacturing, regulatory, logistics, etc.) in each region has been part of the critical foundation for us to build toward success in the coming years.
The world is facing a dramatic pandemic related to the spread of the coronavirus. Some scientists link the birth of this virus and others which are able to spill over from animals to humans to phenomena such as climate change, urbanization and deforestation. What is your point of view in this regard?
Reflecting on the trends of the last twenty years, the rise of economic globalization has changed many things about our world. For many companies, one of the trends has been driving to the lowest possible prices, regardless of other externalities or risks associated with that. The outcome of that trend has been the localization of manufacturing to geographies that do not place value or assign cost for sustainability (among other things). The pandemic has starkly illustrated the fragility of current supply chains as well as the health risks of a world that is deeply connected on a global scale. Historically, due to its relative geographic isolation, the US was more insulated from these phenomena. But as we’ve seen, viruses do not recognize innately human constructs like borders. We need to look forward and build more resilient systems with regional agriculture and distributed supply chains. I believe that people are starting to wake up to the impact our consumer society is having on the global society. As leaders in the bioeconomy, we need to keep working diligently to bring more sustainable products to market.
How is the pandemic affecting your business?
We’ve been very fortunate that we could continue operating throughout the global lockdowns. In general, the impact that we’ve experienced has been relatively mild, certainly when compared to what so many small businesses have suffered. We have and continue to take all the necessary measures to protect our team as we continue to make progress towards our goals. We are making essential products more affordably so we believe there will be sufficient demand for our products as they come to market.
What are your next steps?
We have a lot of exciting news in the pipeline including being commercial with alanine in the coming months. We’ll keep you posted!