August 2, 2012
If readers recall, Metabolix had a fall out with Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) early this year and had since then been looking for alternative plans to produce its polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) resins dubbed Mirel.
The company announced on July 26 that is has signed a letter of intent with Spain-based Antibioticos S.A. to produce Mirel at its manufacturing facility in Leon. Metabolix said "it will begin work immediately with Antibioticos to conduct a series of validation production runs to demonstrate fermentation and recovery of Mirel biopolymer resin on full production-scale equipment at Antibioticos."
Based upon the validation production runs and completion of economic and engineering feasibility studies, Metabolix intends to enter a definitive contract manufacturing deal to produce Mirel.
If Antibioticos sounds familiar to you, it is because this Spanish penicillin producer has formerly been working with Amyris on planning to commercially produce sugar-based farnesene molecules. Early this year, Amyris scrapped its plans with Antibioticos.
According to an ICIS news article (subscription required) written by colleague Clay Boswell, Metabolix expects commercial supply of Mirel from Antibioticos' plant to begin in 2013. Metabolix aims to initially produce 10,000 tonnes/year of Mirel through Antibioticos, a scale that Metabolix said is sufficient to supply existing customers while continuing to develop the market.
Metabolix said it still has existing inventory of 5m pounds of Mirel produced from ADM's Clinton, Iowa, plant.
During its second quarter earnings call also on July 26, Metabolix noted that it has also started shipping sample quantities of dried biomass for conversion to bio-based acrylic acid for customer evaluation. The company reportedly had a successful scale-up recovery of acrylic acid from dried biomass in Metabolix's Cambridge laboratory in the second quarter of 2012.
The company so far has been confident with the development of its C3 and C4 chemical platforms this year. According to a recent Jefferies analyst report on Metabolix, the company estimated benchmark potential manufacturing costs for the PHA-based gamma butyrolactone (GBL) at around 50c.-60c./lb and for PHA-based 1,4 butanediol (BDO) at 80c.-90c./lb.