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Biological Chemistry

Microbes help make ambergris scent

by Melody M. Bomgardner
March 7, 2016 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 94, ISSUE 10

Firmenich says it has scaled up a new route to Ambrox, a woody-scented fragrance molecule, with an assist from microbes. Ambrox , known generically as ambroxide, is a component of ambergris, an excretion from the digestive tract of sperm whales. Because ambergris is rare, the fragrance industry has long relied on a semisynthetic process to make it from sclareol, which is isolated from the herb clary sage. Firmenich scientists engineered microbes to make sclareol from sugar.

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