Campus News

Research Foundation inks licensing deal with European chemical company

Roquette, one of Europe’s largest producers of plant-based commodity and specialty chemicals, has signed a licensing agreement with the UGA Research Foundation for production and sales of succinic acid and its salts.

Succinic acid is a biochemical that is the basis for hundreds of industrial and household products. The technology was developed by UGA scientists.

“The bio-succinic acid project is part of our global strategy to develop vegetal-based chemistry. The technology provided by UGA is a key element to succeed in the large production of this new bio-based building block,” said Christophe Rupp-Dahlem, Roquette director of programs.

Roquette has obtained the right to use the technology for large-scale production of succinic acid in dedicated manufacturing plants. A demonstration plant is expected to be operational by the end of 2009, and multi-ton production is expected to start in 2010.

“Until now, bio-based succinic acid was not economically competitive with petrochemical-based succinic acid,” said Mark Eiteman, a UGA professor of engineering, who invented the technology with research colleague Elliot Altman and graduate student Ravi Gokarn. “We now have a way to direct more of the starting material, simple sugars, into succinic acid with minimal by-products.”

Succinic acid is a platform molecule that can be converted cost-effectively into pharmaceuticals, plastics, personal products, polymers, clothing fibers and solvents. The new technology uses micro-organisms to transform glucose extracted from readily available starches derived from plants, such as corn and wheat, into succinic acid. It is currently produced from butane, a volatile petrochemical.

“We are pleased with this license agreement as a reflection of our ongoing global commercialization efforts,” said Sohail Malik, director of UGA’s technology commercialization office.