August 17, 2009

Industrial Biotech Interview: Verdezyne

This is actually the first time that the Green Blog was able to interview and know more about Verdezyne, an industrial biotechnology company (or a synthetic biology company, whatever fits!) based in Carlsbad, California.

The company, founded in 2005, was formerly known as CODA Genomics, a spin-out from the University of Irvine, California, which originally focused on offering gene assembly tools, gene design and gene optimization. Verdezyne's business model has been converted last year from a tools business to a product focus business and is now offering its biological expertise and proprietary technologies to design and engineer enzymes, metabolic pathways and microorganisms to produce biobased fuels and chemicals.

Daniel Perriman, vice president of business development, talked about the company's strategies going forward, milestones the company hopes to achieve, and his views about the current state of the industrial biotechnology sector.

Q: Can you begin with a short summary and an overview of Verdezyne?

Perriman: Our technology platform includes proprietary metabolic pathway models, algorithms for protein design, a patented method for self-assembling synthetic genes and translational engineering tools that optimize the expression of these genes in recombinant microbes. In 2008, we made the decision to transition to an industrial biotechnology company going beyond a single gene and focusing on a whole series of genes that were responsible for metabolic pathways that can convert sugar to chemical products.

For example in ethanol fermentation, we've been able to achieve high yield rates, increase margin, been able to run the process faster, and reduce the costs. We are also working on a suite of petrochemicals replacements where we are engineering new pathways for a pipeline of chemical targets. We are targeting organic acids although we cannot say more about them until we finished our proof of concept work. One of our goals is to find a way via fermentation of sugar to produce the petrochemical feedstock that the chemical industry uses today. Another is the development of novel chemicals where biology can already produce very well but don't exist within the chemical toolbox.

Overall, our goal is to improve the productivity of existing fermentation, enable cost-advantaged petrochemical replacements, and develop novel chemicals that are previously unattainable.

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