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Business

Evonik gets biobased methionine technology

German firm seeks to supplement synthetic production of animal feed amino acid

by Michael McCoy
November 14, 2016 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 94, ISSUE 45

Evonik Industries, a German chemical company that is a major producer of amino acids for animal nutrition, is venturing into one of the field’s final frontiers: fermentation-based production of methionine.

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Credit: Shutterstock
Poultry feed is a big outlet for methionine.
Credit: Shutterstock
Poultry feed is a big outlet for methionine.

Evonik has submitted a bid to acquire the methionine fermentation technology of the French biotech company Metabolic Explorer. Details weren’t disclosed, although Metabolic Explorer says the proposed price represents at least half of its market capitalization—today about $63 million—over the past two years.

Most animal-feed amino acids, including lysine, threonine, and tryptophan, are produced by fermentation. Methionine is an exception because it contains sulfur, making it difficult for engineered microorganisms to express in large quantities.

Instead, Evonik and other firms make methionine via a complex chemical synthesis involving hard-to-handle raw materials such as methyl mercaptan, carbon disulfide, and hydrogen cyanide. Global methionine sales are more than $3 billion annually, according to Metabolic Explorer.

CJ CheilJedang and Arkema took an initial step toward biobased methionine last year when they opened a $400 million plant in Malaysia that produces the amino acid by combining a fermentation-derived intermediate from CJ with methyl mercaptan from Arkema.

Metabolic Explorer, in contrast, says its process is entirely biobased. The company has been developing it since the 2000s. It had a commercialization agreement with the starch giant Roquette, but that ended in 2014. Following the sale, Metabolic Explorer will continue efforts to develop biobased propanediol and propylene glycol.

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Comments
Dr Ashish (November 15, 2016 12:32 AM)
Thanks for wonderful article. I am a vet with experience in R & D, technical services and International business development. During my job at India's leading herbal methionine manufacturing company, I conducted trials in India and Vietnam.
I concluded that 100% substitution of herbal methionine can not give you resuts. It will be better if you substitute 50% Herbal Methionine and 50% DL Mehtionine.
More over in Pigs , you can substitute 100% as it seems to be not limiting Aa
marie munger (November 21, 2016 2:59 PM)
Does "Bio-based fermentation" means synthetic-biology? Thank you for helping us understand better what those new technologies are about!
Michael McCoy (November 28, 2016 4:43 PM)
Thanks for your comments. I'm curious to know more about "herbal methionine." Is it a plant extract? As for whether "bio-based fermentation" means "synthetic biology," probably not. Although synthetic biology is a squishy term that can be interpreted in more than one way, it generally refers to modifying microorganisms with synthetic DNA. I don't think the bio-based methionine process involves this.

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