The world of biopolymers got a jolt last month when Metabolix Inc., Cambridge, Mass., and the Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM), Decatur, Ill., announced the end of the Telles LLC joint venture for producing PHA biopolymer, effective Feb. 8. Telles, in Lowell, Mass., was the sales and marketing alliance created to commercialize Mirel PHA, derived from fermentation of corn. The decision means Telles LLC will be dissolved. A statement from ADM attributed its decision to “uncertainty around projected capital and production costs, combined with the rate of market adoption, led to projected financial returns for ADM that are too uncertain.”
Under the terms of their commercial alliance, ADM Polymer Corp. may provide PHA fermentation services for Metabolix during a three-year period following termination. Metabolix also retains pilot-scale PHA manufacturing capacity. All Metabolix technology and intellectual property that was used in the joint venture will revert solely to Metabolix. For its part, Metabolix says it “remains committed to successfully commercializing PHA bioplastics.” It says it plans to continue to focus on development of renewable industrial chemicals, and is now free to open discussions with alternative manufacturing and commercialization partners for PHA. As of October, Telles was working with 57 customers and 26 repeat buyers, as well as over 40 prospects.