Metabolix, Inc., Cambridge, Mass., has signed a letter of intent to produce its Mirel biopolymer at Antibioticos, S.A.in Leon, Spain. Mirel is based on PHAs (polyhydroxyalkanoates) produced by microbial fermentation of plant starch. Antibioticos, a producer of pharmaceutical ingredients, boasts expertise in both fermentation and semisynthesis processes. This move helps put Mirel back on track for commercial market development after former production partner Archer Daniels Midland pulled out of a joint venture with Metabolix in February.
Metabolix will immediately begin a series of validation production runs to demonstrate fermentation and recovery of Mirel on Antibioticos’ full production-scale equipment. The companies will enter into a definitive contract-manufacturing agreement for Mirel based on the production validation runs as well as the completion of economic and engineering feasibility studies. Metabolix will own the Mirel resin produced during the validation production runs. Metabolix currently supplies Mirel from existing inventory of about 5 million lb.
Metabolix president and CEO Rick Eno says customer interest and new inquiries about Mirel remain strong. One new application was commercialized this spring. Ball Horticultural Co., West Chicago, Ill., and Floral Plant Growers LLC, Denmark, Wis., are supplying SoilWrap plant containers at Home Depot and Shopko stores across the Midwest and Northwest. Ball SoilWrap is a plantable pot (photo) made of Mirel that biodegrades in soil.