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Companies to Partner on Sustainable Synthetic Biochemicals

Iowa cornfield

Corn field in Iowa (A. Kotok)

11 Nov. 2022. A producer of plant-based organic acids and a developer of synthetic bio-based materials and services are partnering on new sustainable industrial chemicals. Financial and intellectual property terms of the agreement between Lygos Inc. in Berkeley, California and Ginkgo Bioworks in Boston were not disclosed.

Lygos designs and produces organic acids as feedstocks for further processing into finished chemical-based materials. The company says its acids are used in a range of industrial coatings, foams, and plastics, as well as therapeutics, consumer goods, cosmetics, and cannabinoids. Lygos describes its process as protein, metabolic, and strain engineering, transforming raw sustainable sugars with fermentation into chemical feedstocks, guided by data science and analytics. The 11 year-old company was founded by bioengineering specialists from University of California in Berkeley to produce chemicals with a more sustainable process than conventional petrochemicals.

Ginkgo Bioworks is a developer of synthetic biology materials, starting with synthesized DNA and other nucleic acids to design microbes that express enzymes and other bio-based chemicals. The company says the library of genes, cells, and proteins called its codebase makes it possible to speed the design of new biological components. In addition, a Ginkgo division called its foundry offers software and robotics systems that support the company’s synthetic biology programs.

Design and optimize the new microbial strains

As reported by Science & Enterprise in July, Ginkgo Bioworks is moving into the bio-based materials marketplace with the acquisition of Zymergen Inc., a developer of materials for a range of industries and applications. Ginkgo said at the time it was most interested in gaining Zymergen’s expertise and assets in software and automation, similar to processes employed by Lygos in designing its organic acids.

In the deal, Lygos is collaborating with Ginkgo Bioworks on two research programs over two years. Those programs aim to develop new synthetic microorganisms for transforming raw sugars into organic acids, using Ginkgo’s expertise in metabolic engineering to design and optimize the new microbial strains. Eric Steen, CEO of Lygos says in a statement, “The new partnership will enable us to augment our development timelines, allocate more research and development, and accelerate our product commercialization programs.” No details were released on financial terms or developmental milestones within that two-year period.

Ena Cratsenburg, Chief Business Officer at Ginkgo Bioworks notes, “Many specialty organic acids rely on environmentally damaging and costly production processes,” and adds, “Ginkgo is committed to creating solutions that are better for the planet, and this partnership with Lygos will help advance our initiatives around climate sustainability while supporting domestic manufacturing and technology development.”

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