BIO World Congress agenda shows industrial biotech spreading, evolving, scaling

BIO-WC-2015This July, industrial biotech returns to its largest and grandest stage at the BIO World Congress, which convenes in Montreal from this July 19-22, and a look at the plenary session line-up offers a convenient glance at the evolution of the industry away from fuels and towards an integrated portfolio including fuels, chemicals and biomaterials — and a more international flavor than ever.

In the annual policy forum, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Brazil Secretary of State for Innovation Marcos Vinicius de Souza lead an all-star cast including Praj Industries executive chairman Pramod Chaudhari, the European Commission’s  Deputy Head of Biotechnologies Unit Barend Verachtert, Brazilian Industrial Biotechnology Association president Bernardo Silva, Ontario Agri-Food Technologies president Tyler Whale.

You can bet that the subjects will range from restarying a growth path in Brazil, North America and Europe to igniting a tide of development in the developing world. BIO CEO Jim Greenwood will helm the panel.

Conifex Timber CEO Ken Shields and Agrisoma CEO Steve Fabijanski headline a feedstock panel that includes Australia’s CSIRO, represented by Research Program Director for Bioproducts Allan Green, and Sapphire Energy CEO James Levine. A fascinating add-on is coal seam gas technology as Ciris Energy CEO Greg Jenkins joins the group, which focuses on “mounting pressure to validate the sustainability of their renewable raw materials”. Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials’s Matt Rudolf will moderate.

The latest advances in science come under the microscope in a panel starring Verdezyne CEO Bill Radany and ZuChem CEO David Demirjian and featuring Reluceo Holdings CEO Olga Selifonova and Modern Meadow CEO Andras Forgacs. Between Verdezyne’s focus on dodecanoic acid (DDDA), ZuChem’s sweeteners, Reluceo’s green polymers and Modern Meadows’ tissue culture technology to brew leathers, meat, fish and poultry in the lab via biofabrication — the panel will be taking an advanced look at the new foods and materials.

What are the success stories? asks a panel that brings together a suite of companies that have now reached (or are just about to reach) commercial scale in developing their technologies, starring Enerkem CEO Vincent Chornet and Ensyn CEO Robert Graham and featuring Green Biologics North America president Joel Stone, Corbion CEO Tjerk de Ruiter, American Process CEO Theodora Retsina and POET-DSM president Dan Cummings.

Sure to come under the microscope are the Enerkem, POET-DSM, Gran Bio, and Ensyn commercial-scale projects, as well as Green Biologics’ upcoming first commercial and Corbion’s portfolio of commercial-scale molecules as it expands from baking and meat to a plethora of opportunities in biobased chemicals. Molecules, technology pathways, scale-up lessons learned, and establishing financial strength are bound to be hot topics as Andrew Hagan, Director, Head of Chemicals Industry for the World Economic Forum leads the panel through the discussion.

Aviation gets a close look at the World Congress this year in “Aviation Biofuels Get Off the Ground” with an all-star panel incouding Fulcrum BioEnergy CEO James Macias, SkyNRG’s Nordic Director Maria Fiskerud, Masdar Institute’s Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium Director Alejandro Rios Galvan, and Boeing regional director for biofuels strategy Michael Lakeman. CAAFI executive director Steve Csonka leads the discussion.

Takeaways? Around one-third of the companies are US-based, not much more than the US global GDP share — and of those, even fewer are deploying at commercial scale in the US. Indicating that the industry has truly gone global — and is rapidly deploying across a front of opportunities including more opportunities in foods and chemicals than we can ever recall seeing.

It’s been said that industrial biotech holds the promise of turning materials and energy into products that are made in an evenly-distributed manner around the world — instead of being concentrated by the accidents of geology in a handful of countries. Onetime British prime minister George Canning once said that “I called the New World into existence to redress the balance of the Old.” and it could be that “the new bioeconomy” is being called into existence for many of the same reasons.

You can learn more about the World Congress’ 2015 line-up here.

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