By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On August 25, 2017, the Bioplastics Division of the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) awarded DuPont Industrial Biosciences and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) the 2017 Innovation in Bioplastics Award. DuPont and ADM were recognized for their development of a method to produce furan dicarboxylic methyl ester (FDME) from fructose derived from corn starch. Compared to traditional conversion methods used to produce the biobased monomer, the new method is more sustainable and results in higher yields, lower energy, and capital expenditures. Patrick Krieger, PLASTICS Assistant Director of Regulatory and Technical Affairs, stated that “the breakthrough process […] will make bioplastics a competitive option in more applications across various industries.” The new FDME process is currently being used to develop polytrimethylene furandicarboxylate (PTF), a 100 percent renewable and recyclable polymer with improved gas barrier properties, which can extend shelf life and lighten the weight of products in the beverage packaging industry.
On August 31, 2017, DuPont successfully merged with the Dow Chemical Company and began operating as a holding company under the name “DowDuPont™” with three divisions, specifically Agriculture, Materials Science, and Specialty Products. DuPont’s Industrial Biosciences business is organized under the Specialty Products division.
On March 13, 2015, the National Academies issued Industrialization
Of Biology: A Roadmap To Accelerate The Advanced Manufacturing Of Chemicals,
a 143-page report prepared in response to a request from the U.S. Department of
Energy (DOE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to "develop a
roadmap of necessary advances in basic science and engineering capabilities,
including knowledge, tools and skills" to accelerate the advanced
manufacturing of chemicals using biological systems. Thirteen committee members
with expertise in synthetic biology, metabolic engineering, molecular biology,
microbiology, systems biology, synthetic chemistry, chemical engineering,
bioinformatics, systems integration, metrology, chemical manufacturing, and law
and bioethics worked together with researchers to create a technical roadmap
for the future of the biochemicals industry. The report, with chapters
including "Industrial Biotechnology: Past and Present," "Vision
of the Future: What New Chemicals Could Be Made?," and "How Do We Get
There?," examines the regulatory and societal factors limiting the
adoption of bioprocessing in the chemical industry today and makes
recommendations for EPA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and other agencies responsible for
governance of existing and emerging biobased chemicals. A prepublication
version of the report is available now, with a final publication date to be
On November 8, 2013, Heather Zichal, a longtime Obama Administration official and President Obama's top energy and environment advisor since 2011, left her position to pursue other opportunities. Zichal's next steps are not publicly known.
Zichal, a former Capitol Hill staffer, was an important supporter within the Administration of policies, including the RFS, designed to support the development and commercialization of biofuels and renewable chemicals. She will be replaced by her former deputy, Dan Utech, who is also a former Capitol Hill staffer. Utech will continue Zichal's work, including seeing the President's Climate Action Plan move forward.
On Monday, October 7, 2013, the White House announced that Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to President Obama for Energy and Climate Change, will be leaving her post in the coming weeks. Zichal has been advising the President on these issues for the past five years and is considered a friend to the biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biobased products industries. For instance, she has been a strong proponent of maintaining the federal RFS and encouraging investment in biofuels. This year, Zichal helped lead the effort to roll out the President's comprehensive Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There is no word on who will replace Zichal.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced that it will provide $40 million for a Center of Excellence (COE) on sustainable aviation fuel and the environment. The funds will be distributed in $4 million increments each year for the next ten years. Washington State University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will be leading the effort, and several other universities will be involved. For a full list of participants and more information on the initiative, please see a copy of FAA's press release, which is available online.
This announcement illustrates the federal government's important role in and commitment to facilitating the ongoing development and commercialization of U.S. biofuels. This year, the FAA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) renewed their joint agreement to promote the development of aviation biofuels. They are aiming for one billion gallons of commercial aviation capacity by 2018.