BASF, one of the world’s largest chemical companies, has formed a partnership with Gainesville-based BioTork to use BioTork’s “game-changing” technology to improve its production of chemicals from organic material. This is the first milestone in a development project that could lead to more jobs locally and the production of chemicals from plants globally.
Naysayers have doubted BioTork’s technology—which successfully uses microbial strains to produce bio-based polymers and high-value chemicals. But with the endorsement from an international company that boasts 111,000 employees, there is little doubt now. “This is a vindication of our technology,” says Tom Lyons, BioTork’s chief scientific officer.
While other companies are using microbes to produce various products, including biofuel and industrial chemicals, BioTork, located in the Gainesville Technology Enterprise Center, stands to lead the way in the race to produce chemicals from organic material.
“What sets our approach apart from the competition is the robustness of our microbes,” Lyons says. “They grow faster and survive at a broader range of industrial conditions than other microbes that are used.” This translates into a potentially lower cost for using plant material to create products that are currently derived from oil.
“Our ability to satisfy the unique needs of a company like BASF is a testimony not only to the quality of our employees and the power of our technology,” says communications manager Ziad Ghanimi in a press release, “but also to the quality of research and development conducted in Alachua County—and the success of GTEC.”
The Germany-based BASF and BioTork recently completed a successful six-month test of BioTork’s process. Details of the partnership haven’t been disclosed.
BioTork was founded in 2008 by biochemist Eudes De Crecy, who developed the process that BioTork uses under his company, Evolugate LLC. BioTork now employs 10 people at its headquarters, and it plans to create 30 full-time scientist positions during the next two years and contribute to the development of East Gainesville, where GTEC is located.
In May, BioTork announced that it had completed two years of successful research in collaboration with the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center on a yeast strain that improves biofuel production—just another example of its growing success.
“This will allow ethanol plants to eventually increase their production by 10 percent without any more capital investment,” Lyons says.