French Companies Advance Fermentation Chemistry | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: January 24, 2008

French Companies Advance Fermentation Chemistry

Biotech program in France is boosted by succinic acid venture and propanediol patent
Department: Science & Technology, Business

France's BioHub program, developed to encourage industrial biotechnology in the center of the country, is getting a boost from two recent developments.

Roquette, one of Europe's largest producers of starch and starch derivatives, has joined forces with chemical maker DSM to commercialize biobased succinic acid. The partners plan to open a demonstration plant in Lestrem, France, by the end of 2009.

Succinic acid, currently produced from crude oil or natural gas, is used in such industrial markets as pharmaceuticals, food, and automotive. It is also an intermediate for the production of several high-performance polymers—an area in which DSM is involved.

Biobased succinic acid will be produced by a fermentation process that the two companies developed. They say it is the first such production method in which carbon dioxide is actively used. The demonstration plant will have the capacity to produce several hundred metric tons per year. If the trial is successful, the partners will transfer the technology to large-scale production within two years.

Meanwhile, Clermont-Ferrand-based Metabolic Explorer has been granted a U.S. patent covering a fermentation method for producing 1,3-propanediol (PDO) from crude glycerin. The company already has European patents on the process.

"This is the first U.S. patent specifically related to converting glycerin into PDO at high yield using a coenzyme B12-independent metabolic pathway," says Philippe Soucaille, MetEx's chief scientific officer. The firm says it has developed "cell factories" for five chemical intermediates that together have annual sales of some $11 billion.

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