Integrated Bio-Engineered Chemicals
Develop a commercially viable process for producing widely used organic chemical feedstocks from renewable agricultural products rather than from traditional fossil-based hydrocarbons.
Sponsor: Metabolix, Inc21 Erie Street
Cambridge, MA 02139
Metabolix has proposed developing a commercially viable process for producing widely used organic chemical feedstocks from renewable agricultural products rather than fossil hydrocarbons like oil or coal. Their planned Integrated Bio-Engineered Chemicals (IBEC) project will bio-engineer bacteria to produce a polymer precursor from fermentation sugars. The cells will be engineered to produce a polyester similar to one that is produced naturally as an intracellular sequestered granule. Chemical processes will then be used to recover product with high purity exploiting the ease of separation and subsequently disassemble the polyester and convert it into a variety of four-carbon (C4) industrial chemicals. Today, C4 chemicals are produced almost entirely from fossil-based hydrocarbons. Global demand is estimated at 2.5 billion pounds annually, and growing at a rate of 4 to 5 percent a year. If successful, the process could be extended to produce commercially important C3, C5 and possibly C6 chemical intermediates as well. The project is technically risky because of the extensive bioengineering that is required, but if successful it would enable an entire class of bio-based routes for producing key industrial chemicals, reducing the need for non-renewable, fossil-based feedstocks and providing the nation with competitive advantages in polymers, chemicals and agriculture, all while reducing adverse environmental impacts.