Group Aims to Bolster Biotech

March 9, 2016
Efforts will endeavor to foster connections among companies

The Green Chemistry Institute (GCI) of the American Chemical Society, Washington, D.C., is launching a group to spur collaboration on issues facing bio-based and renewable chemicals. The Biochemical Technology Leadership Roundtable (BTLR) aims to identify and address key scientific challenges such as those relating to scaling-up biochemical technologies in a sustainable way, says the GCI.

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Prior to establishing the BTLR, the GCI held a series of workshops and interviews with people from more than 30 corporations and startups, as well as from government, academia and trade organizations. “While we were conducting stakeholder interviews last year, we heard over and over how difficult it was for companies to make the right connections — it was all based on who knows who and there was a lack of transparency. As a result, the concept of connecting companies and leaders along the bio-based and renewables value chain emerged as one of the key strategic areas of interest for organizations expressing an interest in the BTLR,” says Ann Lee-Jeffs, Green Chemistry program manager at the GCI.

“Our mission is to facilitate greater industry implementation of relevant technologies to improve the competitiveness and attractiveness of the field,” adds David Constable, director of the GCI. “We invite all interested companies with scientists and engineers possessing the requisite skill sets to join this effort.”

The goal is for BTLR members to collaborate on pre-competitive initiatives such as: identifying key research needed to reduce costs and improve performance of processes; developing scientific databases to support commercialization as well as standards- and policy-setting; promoting best-practice sharing and benchmarking; devising tools and methodology for design and use of technologies; and increasing the accessibility of green chemistry and engineering experts.

“Supportive frameworks will help get new technologies to commercial scale in a shorter time frame,” notes Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech, Skokie, Ill., a firm that already has signed on. “The BTLR can do this by engaging with the wider market, establishing a supportive value chain and establishing and promoting best practices to help all players succeed on a level playing field.”

Any for-profit business involved in bio-based and renewable chemicals — from feedstock suppliers to manufacturers to retailers — anywhere in the world can become a member. Membership fees vary according to global sales volume: a company with less than $100 million in annual revenue would contribute $1,000/yr while a firm with sales of $20 billion or more would pay $30,000/yr. At press time, three other companies besides LanzaTech have signed on as founding members: Calysta, Menlo Park, Calif.; Intrexon, Germantown, Md.; and White Dog Labs, Los Altos Hills, Calif. Several other companies are considering joining, says Lee-Jeffs. To augment member contributions, the BTLR may pursue grants from the government and foundations, she notes.

“The BTLR aims to be inclusive and diverse; the four founding members indicated that they would like to find an impactful way to include universities and research centers in the BTLR conversations,” explains Lee-Jeffs.

Initially, the BTLR likely will come up with a set of short-term projects chosen by the members with the aim of delivering results within one year to demonstrate value for the businesses, she adds.

Go here fo more details on the BTLR.

BTLR is the GCI’s fifth roundtable. The oldest one, the Pharmaceutical Roundtable, now has been running for ten years; the others are: Formulators’ Roundtable, Chemical Manufacturer’s Roundtable and Hydraulic Fracturing Roundtable. Their number of members ranges from 6 to 14.

MARK ROSENZWEIG is Chemical Processing's Editor in Chief. You can email him at [email protected].

About the Author

Mark Rosenzweig | Former Editor-in-Chief

Mark Rosenzweig is Chemical Processing's former editor-in-chief. Previously, he was editor-in-chief of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers' magazine Chemical Engineering Progress. Before that, he held a variety of roles, including European editor and managing editor, at Chemical Engineering. He has received a prestigious Neal award from American Business Media. He earned a degree in chemical engineering from The Cooper Union. His collection of typewriters now exceeds 100, and he has driven a 1964 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk for more than 40 years.

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