Heard on the Floor at the 2019 BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology : Biofuels Digest


Governor Kim Reynolds of Iowa speaking at the opening plenary luncheon of the 2019 BIO World Congress in Des Moines, Iowa.

For the past 12 months, there have been an alarming number of t-shirts floating around the bioeconomy suggesting that people “get their biomass to Iowa,” or maybe it was in Iowa.  We’re all supposed to be in Iowa, that’s for sure, and this week, as the bioeconomy’s biggest and grandest show, the BIO World Congress, takes us on an accustomed journey through the present and future in a sector that has more twists and turns than the rides at Six Flags and the acceleration of a mission to Mars.

Well, we all got our biomass(es) to Iowa, or in, or whatever. We’re here, and what a show. More than 800 delegates were on hand on opening mornigng and BIO was indicating that they expect overall attendance to reach 900 as the World Congress, validating its bold move to a mid-summer date and picking Des Moines, Iowa as the WC host.

The Biobased economy grows, fast

In new research, Jesse Daystar of Duke University said that the US biobased industry employed 4.65 milion people and generated $459 billion in value-added manufacturing  for the US economy in 2016. This is up from 4.02 million jobs and $369 billion in economic impact in 2013. If the same growth rates have been maintained, we can project that the US biobased industry would reach $570 billion this year.

The authors noted that “the growing bioeconomy also leads to environmental benefits, which include reducing the use of fossil fuels and associated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The report shows potential reductions of GHG emissions of 60%, with analyses indicating that up to 12 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents may have been reduced in 2016.”

The report is the fourth volume in a series of reports tracking the impact of the biobased product industry on the U.S. economy and seeks to address seven important questions regarding the contributions of the biobased products industry: 

You can download a copy of the report here.

DMC Biotechnologies’ first close of $10.3M Series A Financing Led by Sofinnova Partners

DMC has raised a Series A equity financing led by Sofinnova Partners. The company also announced the addition to its Board of Directors of Josko Bobanovic, Partner and Manager of the Sofinnova Industrial Biotech Fund. Current investors Capricorn Venture Partners and Breakthrough Energy Ventures also participated in the fundraise. This funding builds on the company’s successful non-dilutive awards to date which exceed $1.8M from the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Energy, and the US Department of Agriculture.

DMC makes bio-based products using enhanced microbial fermentation. The development of microbes and associated bioprocesses has historically been complicated, slow, and costly. DMC is deploying its technology to reduce biological complexity and enhance the speed of development, creating a low cost, fermentation-based manufacturing platform that has the capability to produce a broad diversity of products. The company’s platform enables low cost distributed manufacturing of existing products and new-to-the world products that are only accessible using the precision of biology.

A new brand from Checkerspot

Checkerspot announced he launch of WNDR Alpine and its first product the Intention 110 ski. Since Checkerspot’s inception in June 2016, the vision was to animate what is possible with our technology and bring to life what the future of high performance materials could hold. We sought to work with true innovators who could see the potential and build entirely new products that not only performed better but that were better for the planet, through the vision of Matt Sterbenz WNDR Alpine and the 110 Intention Ski is the embodiment of this vision.

Elevance Renewables Sciences achieves ISCC EU Certification for Biorefinery process residue 

We received news that Elevance Renewable Sciences has certified two process residue streams, olefins and saturated heavy methyl esters, produced at its Gresik, Indonesia, biorefinery as process residue under the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) EU system.  The biorefinery, which is a joint venture between Elevance and Wilmar, produces novel, high-performing unsaturated midchain methyl esters from vegetable oils, which are used as chemical intermediates and solvents in a wide range of applications.    

With these certifications, Elevance’s biorefinery process residue can now be utilized as ISCC Certified process residue to produce advanced biofuels in Europe.  ISCC certification provides proof of compliance with the sustainability and traceability criteria set by the European Renewable Energy Directive (RED) for the biofuels markets.  

“Our biorefinery process residue can now be utilized as sustainable and compliant biofuel feedstock within the European Union, aiding member states in meeting their renewable energy goals while improving the sustainability of our manufacturing process,” said Rusty Pittman, chief commercial officer for Elevance.

Crop conditions

There were subsiding concerns over the 2019 corn and soybean harvest. A visual multi-county inspection of corn crop condition by the Digest found that the corn, at the end of the day, is behind its expected growth rates  — frankly looking more like June than July corn. Experts advised that corn plantings focused on shorter-season varietals and there’s been an increase in soybean plantings; combined with large corn inventories, experts polled by the Digest predicted that overall impact on market prices will be limited and local for this year, though harvest totals are likely to be affected. US corn prices have been on the rise in recent weeks as crop planting reports have been circulated. 

Thumbs up but early days on advanced foods

On the main stage, Spruce Capital’s Roger Wyse, Triton ALgae CEO Xun Wang and Amyris SVP Jim Iacaponi gave a thumbs up to new nutrition products of the Beyond Meats and Impossible Foods types, while cautioning that these are still early days with products just now reaching consumer shelves. Iacaponi predicted that by 2030 30% of all sweeteners used in the US will be made by fermenation and would feature RebM, a molecule made naturally in small quanitites in the setvia plant and for which Amyris has developed a fermenation-based process. Wyse noted that as many as 500 advanced nutrition companies are somewhere in the process of company formation and development and a sorting and shaking out was inevitable to concentrate demand around the winning technologies.

Over at Gevo, better finance and better carbon

Gevo CEO Pat Gruber highlighted that the company’s low-carbon ethanol will become even more carbon-friendly shortly, as the company intends to launch Gevo Energy, brining biogas from manure into the company’s power supply for ethanol production., Gevo also tipped that it expects shortly to improve its debt position with a refinancing effort now underway.

Breakthroughs in polymers for cosmetics

Also in the EU: Saxony-Anhalt researchers say they’ve broken through on production of the sugar polymer Levan for cosmetics. In the natural world, the Levan structure varies according to the environmental conditions. A long-chain, high-molecular Levan has different properties to a low-molecular Levan, for instance.  The project partners optimized the production of the enzyme and then the production process for Levan itself. Innovent was responsible for the analytics, GMBU for the adaptation of the technology to large-scale use, and artefactum for the use of Levan in the production of cosmetics.

The rise of electro-magnetism as a growth accelerator

Mark Pelletier said InVironmental Integrity is exploring Tesla inspired electric and magnetic field based product and system development. Pelletier speculated that electro-magnetic stimualtion activates ancient capabilities in DNA that developed during times when lightning was more prevalent on earth. Pelletier said that we are just beginning to measure the impact of electromagnetism as a factor in the advancement of fermentation. Looking at mnodified organisms that produce isoprene showed a spike in responsiveness. Bench-based EMF research expects to reach pilot scale potentially at Berkeley in cooperation with the ABPDU team there. 

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