Amyris enters contract manufacturing agreement with Tate Lyle for farnesene; precursor for renewable diesel and chemicals

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Amyris reprograms yeast to produce targeted molecules via fermentation. One possible products, farnesene, can be a diesel precursor. Source: Amyris. Click to enlarge.

Amyris, Inc. has entered into a contract manufacturing agreement with Tate & Lyle Ingredients Americas, Inc., an affiliate of Tate & Lyle PLC. Under this arrangement, Tate & Lyle will produce farnesene at its facilities in Decatur, IL; the produced farnesene will be owned and distributed by Amyris.

Farnesene is an isoprenoid molecule that forms the basis for a wide range of products varying from specialty chemical applications to transportation fuels such as diesel. When used as a fuel precursor, farnesene can be hydrogenated to farnesane, which has a high cetane number (58). Amyris modifies farnesene to become Amyris renewable diesel.

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Amyris’ “Biofene”. Source: Amyris. Click to enlarge.

In its Form S-1 registration statement filed with the SEC prior to its IPO earlier this year, Amyris said it expected to target the initial commercialization of farnesene to specialty chemical markets. The company said it was seeking to improve its strain performance to expand its addressable markets, including additional specialty chemical applications and renewable diesel.

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Amyris is using a multi-stage scale-up approach. Contract manufacturing (outlined in red) is the stage before full production. Source: Amyris. Click to enlarge.

The arrangement with Tate & Lyle expands Amyris’ contracted production capacity. Amyris entered into a similar agreement in June 2010 with a facility of Biomin GMBH in Piracicaba, Brazil. Amyris expects to begin production of farnesene at the Biomin facility in the first half of 2011.

Amyris is using contract manufacturing capacity to produce farnesene at commercial scale to supply customer demand in advance of the start up of Amyris’s first commercial plant under its joint venture with Grupo São Martinho.

In June, Amyris entered into an off-take agreement with Shell for the supply of Amyris No Compromise diesel. The parties have agreed to the terms under which Shell may purchase the renewable hydrocarbon fuel from Amyris, including pricing relative to a defined biodiesel price index. (Earlier post.) The Environmental Protection Agency has registered Amyris diesel at a 35% blend, an increase over the prior registration level of 20%. (Earlier post.)

Oil and gas major Total earlier entered into a strategic partnership with Amyris, resulting in Total’s taking a 17% stake in the company and a wide-spectrum master development and collaboration agreement.

We are delighted to be working with Amyris to help them achieve the first commercialization of its farnesene. The combination of our facilities and expertise and Amyris’s fermentation processes and equipment are a truly excellent fit.

—Matt Wineinger, President, Bulk Ingredients, Tate & Lyle

Amyris applies industrial synthetic biology to genetically modify yeast to produce defined molecules via fermentation for use as renewable chemicals and transportation fuels. The company is focusing on Brazilian sugarcane as its primary feedstock. According to UNICA, the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association, sugarcane is the lowest cost feedstock to produce renewable products at scale and using it enables us to leverage the established Brazilian infrastructure.

Common to both the Amyris process and the sugarcane-to-ethanol process is the use of fermentation. Amyris plans to establish production capacity taking as input the same sugar source that is routinely processed by existing sugar and ethanol mills and directing it to customized fermentors, where it will be combined with genetically engineered yeast.

Amyris Brasil S.A., a subsidiary of Amyris, oversees the establishment and expansion of Amyris’s production in Brazil, including SMA Indústria Química S.A., its joint venture with São Martinho. In addition, Amyris is building fuels distribution capabilities in the United States through its subsidiary, Amyris Fuels LLC.

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