2 August 2016

BioPreferred Partner Spotlight: Verdezyne

Asking Tom Beardslee, Ph.D., VP of R&D about the biobased innovations at Verdezyne

We are grateful for the participation of hundreds of companies currently taking part in the USDA BioPreferred Program®.

One of those companies is California-based Verdezyne, Inc., a program participant since June, 2015.

Verdezyne recently received the prestigious EPA 2016 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award, so we decided mark that occasion by sitting down with Tom Beardslee, Ph.D., VP of R&D to learn more about the biobased innovations at Verdezyne.

1. Tell us more about how Verdezyne started. What problem were you trying to solve and what excites you most about Verdezyne’s approach?

Verdezyne started with a vision of translating the power of synthetic biology into real-world solutions for industrial biotechnology. We began with a team of scientists, a unique fermentation platform, and a calling to answer the growing demand for renewables.

In Dodecanedioic Acid (DDDA), we found a perfect combination of market dynamics and technical fit: a supply-constrained market for an exclusively petroleum-based chemical.

What excites me most is being at the forefront of the renewable chemicals revolution. We have come a long ways but we are really only just getting started. Renewable chemicals should be an integral part of any strategy for combating climate change.

2. Tell us about the innovation that led to Verdezyne’s recognition in the 2016 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards.

Producing a clean chemical at industrial scale is a technical challenge, no doubt. The development involved, first, the biocatalyst to produce the chemical, then implementing the process for isolating the purified chemical to meet industry specifications.

Aside from that, though, the innovation that really helped us win the award was our ability to bring the technology to commercial scale.

3. How do you view the clean chemical space?

Think about the countless places chemicals are used in everyday life, as well as in industry. This is a huge, huge area and unfortunately it hasn’t really gotten its due. The conversation still invariably revolves around energy, but chemicals need to be a part of the discussion, too.

4. What are your thoughts on the larger biobased economy? Where do you see it going and how are companies like Verdezyne contributing?

Petroleum and petrochemicals have helped drive tremendous progress for humankind, true, but we are also now witnessing the downside of their widespread use. Fortunately it now really is feasible to start to wean ourselves away from the more harmful method of producing both energy and chemicals.

A handful of companies in the clean chemicals space that are doing great work; aside from Verdezyne Amyris and BioAmber are examples.

It is our hope that as the sector starts to gain traction and make actual consumer and industrial products available in the marketplace, word will start to spread. Consumers will ask for renewable chemical-based products, entrepreneurs and scientists will step up to create meet this demand, in a virtuous circle.

Looking ahead, we hope that a wide variety of clean chemical-based products, both consumer and industrial, will become available, world-wide, with ever-growing demand.

5. What is the value of the USDA Certified Biobased Product label from Verdezyne’s perspective?

The USDA Certified Biobased Product label is a wonderful program and we commend the USDA for implementing it. For us, it is simply a very strong seal of approval that our BIOLON DDDA is 100% bio-based, from the most objective, authoritative source imaginable.

Source: BioPreferred, press release, 2016-07.

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