BIO World Congress Begins with Newsmakers

BIO’s 2011 World Congress got off to a strong start in Toronto, with news announcements from G2 BioChem and others throughout the morning.
The big news from BIO was the presentation of the George Washington Carver Award to Royal DSM CEO/Chairman Feike Sijbesma. Sijbesma discussed the evolution of DSM from a coal mining company to a chemical company and now to a global life sciences and materials company. For Sijbesma, this transformation mirrors the current Green Industrial Revolution.
Feike Sijbesma’s acceptance speech is available as written.

Download audio of speech: Royal DSM Chairman/CEO Feike Sijbesma Accepts the 2011 BIO George Washington Carver Award
As evidence of the Green Industrial Revolution, DSM announced plans to build a bio-succinic acid plant in partnership with Roquette. The plant would open in Italy in 2012 if all goes according to plan. BP announced investment in Verdezyne, a California company building a platform to produce adipic acid, which is a building block for nylon.
Genencor published the results of a new survey of consumer acceptance of biobased household products. In a survey of U.S. and Canadian consumers, from 30 to 40 percent of respondents indicated they have heard the term “biobased products.” More than two-thirds indicated they’d be willing to purchase them for their environmental sustainability, if they were comparable to non-biobased products on cost and effectiveness.

More from the World Congress in Washington

Day two of BIO’s World Congress on Industrial Biotech brought more announcements from Genomatica and BIO itself, and day three promises exciting news from Ceres — The Energy Crop Company, according to sources.

Genomatica successfully scaled its first commercial product — 1,4 butanediol (BDO), a product with a $3 billion market used to make spandex, automotive plastics, running shoes, etc. — to pilot scale, running multiple successful batches of 3,000 liters. Genomatica uses computer aided analysis, modeling and simulation to design highly engineered microbes and has a vision that microbial productivity will increase the way chip memory did for computers.

Ceres has developed a new plant trait that improves salt-tolerance for energy grasses, including sorghum, miscanthus and switchgrass. Researchers tested the effects of very high salt concentrations and seawater from the Pacific Ocean, which contains mixtures of salts in high-concentration, on improved energy grass varieties growing in greenhouses. “Soils containing salt and other growth-limiting substances restrict crop production in many locations in the world. This genetic breakthrough provides new opportunities to overcome the effects of salt,” said Flavell. In food crops, Ceres has confirmed the trait in rice to date and is preparing additional testing in others.

During the lunch plenary session on Tuesday, Raoul Oberman of McKinsey & Co. released the results of a survey of BIO member companies on the future of the industry. Notably, the results included responses to the question, “By the year 2025, what will be the dominant fossil fuel alternative?” The majority (60 percent) of industry respondents said “Bio-substitutes for gasoline,” while 19 percent cited biodiesel and 16 percent said electric vehicles. McKinsey’s analysis showed that on a land use efficiency analysis, electric vehicles powered by biomass achieved 37 miles per acre while biofuels achieved 30.

More than half (55 percent) of respondents said there is currently insufficient capital to support growth of the industry. Three quarters of respondents (76 percent) supported “Governments create long-term regulatory frameworks and offer incentives” as a solution, and two thirds also supported “Science offers clear evidence of biofuel efficiency and carbon impact” as a driver of investment.

You can view the presentation of the findings by Oberman at McKinsey Industry Survey on Biofuel Outlook 2010.

BIO also presented the 2010 George Washington Carver Award to MIT Professor Greg Stephanopoulos, a pioneer in metabolic engineering and commercialization of industrial biotech processes.