OPX Biotechnologies: Biofuels Digest’s 2015 5-Minute Guide

5-Minute-Guide-logoOPXBIO styles itself in the “Good Chemistry” business, developing and producing bio-based chemicals that deliver more sustainable value for customers compared to traditional petro-based chemicals.

The company’s says that its patented, leading EDGE (Efficiency Directed Genome Engineering) technology “has proven advantages over traditional bioengineering approaches”.

Primarily, EDGE enables OPXBIO to more rapidly engineer microbes and develop cost-effective bioprocesses. Our team has the knowledge and skill needed to design and construct highly productive microbial strains, develop efficient fermentation and downstream processes, engineer demonstration and commercial scale manufacturing plants, perform high-quality analytical science and implement enabling information technologies.

They are applying EDGE technology to the development and commercialization of BioAcrylic Acid and Specialty Fatty Acids using sugar feedstock — partnering with the Dow Chemical Company on BioAcrylic and Evonik Industries on Specialty Fatty Acid development.

The Situation

It’s been a relatively quiet year at OPX Bio, even their own website doesn’t have a news release dated after May 2013, excepting to note the departure of Chas Eggert as CEO and the appointment of longtime OPXer Michael Rosenberg in his place. But a DOE research grant win just annoucned this week will put some wind in the company’s sails. That grant offered OPX up to $2 million to develop the production of cost-competitive C8 fatty acid derivatives via novel metabolic engineering pathways.

OPXBIO is developing fatty acid products that are not produced in nature such as branched chain, odd chain, unsaturated molecules or with specific functionality. Plus, they are developing processes to make short chain fatty acids with high chain length specificity such as caproic, caprylic and capric acids that are made only in limited quantities in palm kernel and coconut oils not fully exploited because of limited availability and high cost. Markets of interest include personal care products, flavors and fragrances, cleaning products, lubricants and oil field chemicals

Rankings

30 Hottest Companies in Renewable Chemicals: #19, 2014/15

Major investors

Altira Group, Braemar Energy Ventures, DBL Investors, Mohr Davidow Ventures, US Renewables Group, Wolfensohn & Company, L.L.C., and XSeed Capital. OPXBIO was founded in 2007 and employs 65 people at our Boulder, Colorado location.

Top Past Milestones 

In February 2015, In Washington, the Energy Department’s Bioenergy Technologies Office announced the selection of seven projects across the country to receive up to $10 million to support innovative technologies and solutions to help advance bioenergy development. These projects will support BETO’s work to develop renewable and cost-competitive biofuels from nonfood biomass feedstocks by reducing the risk associated with potentially breakthrough approaches and technologies. OPX Biotechnologies of Boulder, Colorado, will receive up to $2 million to develop the production of cost-competitive C8 fatty acid derivatives (that can readily be converted to high-performance lubricants and synthetic oils) from cellulosic sugars via novel metabolic engineering pathways.

In October 2014, the company was named to the 2014 Global Cleantech 100 along with Arcadia Biosciences, Avantium, Beta Renewables, Elevance Renewable Sciences, Enerkem, Genomatica, Green Biologics, Harvest Power, Kaiima, LanzaTech, Liquid Light, Microvi, NexSteppe, Novomer, OPX Bio, Siluria Technologies and Verdezyne.

1. Confirmed market-competitive production cost for BioAcrylic based on pilot scale results

2. Successfully scaled up the fermentation process for 3HP – the key BioAcrylic precursor – to 3000 liters

3. Formed a strategic collaboration with Evonik Industries focused on bioprocesses for specialty fatty acids

Major Milestone Goals 

1. Complete large scale demonstration of the BioAcrylic process, confirming competitive economics and product performance

2. Complete engineering of the first commercial scale BioAcrylic plant

3. Achieve fatty acid bioprocess development milestones and expand our portfolio of fatty acid development and commercialization partners

Business Model

The company is focused on developing microbes and bioprocesses that can cost effectively produce bio-based chemicals and fuels. We enter collaborative partnerships with global chemical companies for technology development and also intend to establish strategic partnerships in the form of joint ventures and/or technology licensing for commercialization.

Competitive Edge

The company’s competitive edge is EDGE, its bioengineering technology platform that enables rapid, rational, and robust optimization of microbes and bioprocesses to manufacture bioproducts. These products perform equally to petroleum-based alternatives and offer better sustainability. We also succeed based on the capabilities of our team as well as the power of our strategic and financial partners.

Product: BioAcrylic
BioAcrylic is a renewable form of the industrial chemical, acrylic acid. Traditionally, acrylic acid is produced from propylene, derived from petroleum.

Product Applications:
Diapers, detergents, paints and adhesives—anywhere acrylic acid is used today. BioAcrylic addresses a $10 billion global market opportunity. BioAcrylic will match the performance of current petro-acrylic with market competitive economics based on renewable feedstocks. The BioAcrylic process uses sugar derived from corn, sugar cane, or cellulosic feedstocks.

Product: Fatty Acids
Fatty Acids and derivatives represent an existing $40 billion global market opportunity.

Product Applications
Home, cleaning, and personal care products; industrial fluids; and precursors for bio-based fuels and chemicals. The novel, proprietary bioprocess is capable of producing specialty fatty acids and derivatives with specific carbon chain lengths from both sugar and syngas feedstocks. These products will replace fatty acids derived from natural oils, such as palm and coconut, in existing and new applications. Additionally, these products will enable downstream customers to improve the sustainability indices of their product formulations.

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