Amryris: Zombie With Attitude

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Jim Lane

Zombies with attitude. New partnerships for making magic molecules and exploitin’ the heck out of ’em.

Zombies w attitude

These days, nothing in Hollywood beats a great zombie movie, more than 50 have been released in recent years. Zombies rise from the dead, and change everything around them. It’s not always pretty, or predictable, but they’re a disruptive force.

Well, Amyris (AMRS) is proving to be a zombie story these days starting with being labeled a “zombie company” by The Motley Fool. TMF writes:

Amyris was a pioneering industrial biotech that went from darling of the field to a company now trading well below $1 per share thanks to a lack of market focus, a suffocating debt load, and management hubris. It’s likely on its way to bankruptcy or a much worse fate: becoming a zombie company that’s impossible to resurrect yet refuses to die. It also serves as a textbook case of the first-mover disadvantage.

Like a clip out of Thriller or Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies, the zombies appear to be awakening. In the past 24 hours, two signature announces put Amyris well outside of what would normally be considered the industrial biotech Zombieland.

The Givaudan deal

First, Amyris announced a collaboration with Givaudan (SIX:GIVN), a leading global flavors and fragrances company. The two companies have been engaged in the research and development of proprietary fragrance ingredients for several years, and the significantly expanded partnership reinforces the diversity and value of Amyris’s R&D platform and manufacturing capabilities to customers demanding high performance, cultured ingredients.

During the multiyear collaboration, Amyris will use its strain engineering platform to design cosmetic active targets, and scale them up for global commercialization at Amyris’s manufacturing facility in Brotas, Brazil. The companies anticipate the launch of the target products in the coming years will demonstrate significant performance, cost and sustainability advantages over existing ingredients.

More about Givaudan

The “global leader in flavors and fragrances”, its cosmetic portfolio comes under the Fragrances Division and earlier this spring was re-branded as Active Beauty. That’s where the Amyris-Givaudan partnership is focused.

The company explained it this way recently:

“Following the acquisition of French bio-sourced active cosmetic ingredients company Soliance in 2014 and science-based cosmetic ingredients firm Induchem in 2015, Givaudan now offers customers and consumers around the world a range of innovative products and technology under one single identity, Active Beauty. Establishing one unified identity is a key step towards our 2020 ambition to make Givaudan a significant player in the fast-growing active cosmetics business. Our customers remain at the heart of what we do and the new identity will enhance the proximity of our business relationship with customers and consumers alike.”

Key to all this? Well, it’s cosmetics, so there’s marketing to be done. But Maurizio Volpi, President of Givaudan’s Fragrance Division pointed to a “a strong R&D…platform to drive future development and innovation in the active cosmetics space.”

That’s where Amyris check in. Already Givaudan has a string of antioxidants, moisturizers, cooling agents, wrinkle reducers and skin firmers.

The Gingko Partnership

Ginkgo Bioworks, the organism company, announced a new partnership with Amyris, the industrial bioscience company. The partnership will enable the companies to develop products more efficiently, achieve scale, and accelerate time to market.

As part of the deal, Ginkgo Bioworks will expand Amyris’ strain engineering capability via access to its world-class foundry; Amyris will be responsible for bringing products to scale. Together, the two companies have a portfolio of more than 70 products under contract for delivery to the world’s leading brands across industrial, health and personal care markets.

Amyris has the leading track record in the industry of scaling engineered organisms and delivering breakthrough products to its customers. The company’s fermentation facility in Brazil is highly advantageous for the production of cultured ingredients such as flavors, fragrances, nutritional ingredients and sweeteners. Together, the two companies expect to deliver more than 20 new products over the next three years.

Ginkgo is currently building Bioworks2, a next-generation automated foundry where Ginkgo’s organism engineers can develop new designs at massive scale. The 25,000 square-foot automated facility is used to build and test prototypes of engineered microbes. It is the company’s second, representing a technology leap from Bioworks1, which opened in early 2015.

The bottom line

Zombie company? As The Zombies themselves put it in their anthemic 1964 hit, “Please don’t bother trying to find her, She’s not there.” Amyris struggled, but look at the deal flow. And the company continues to guide that it will reach revenues of $90 million -$105 million in 2016. And, a planned sale of “ non-core assets expected to generate approximately $40 million-$60 million in net proceeds.” We’ll have to see what those non-core assets exactly are.

$100M in revenues that would be a milestone indeed. As The Zombies put it in 1968, “Now we’re there and we’ve only just begun /This will be our year / took a long time to come.”

Reaction from the stakeholders

And, there are some ‘pleased and delighteds’ to share from the principals.

“We are very pleased with our ongoing partnership with Amyris. As our company continues to look for innovative and sustainable solutions to availability and cost challenges, we are expanding the relationship to apply Amyris’s technology to a whole new field,” said Maurizio Volpi, President of Givaudan’s Fragrance Division.

“Ginkgo and Amyris working together sets the gold standard for the industrial biotechnology industry,” said Jason Kelly, CEO of Ginkgo Bioworks. “Each company was seeing more customer demand for partnerships than we could handle individually. By sharing our assets and experience we can offer more customers access to the industry-leading technology platform.”

“We are excited to be working with Givaudan to solve supply challenges and deliver sustainable innovation in cosmetic actives. We are very pleased with the Givaudan commitment to innovation and its leadership in delivering breakthrough advancements in Active Cosmetics,” said John Melo, Amyris President & Chief Executive Officer. ” He added with respect to Ginkgo, ““Our combined companies have the leading product and customer portfolio and we realized a need to find a faster and more predictable approach to deliver products to these customers and markets,” said John Melo, CEO of Amyris. “Amyris has successfully commercialized five products from highly engineered molecules, disrupting markets from skin care, fragrances, to industrial lubricants, tires and jet fuel. The flood of new products in the coming years will prove that industrial biotechnology’s time has arrived.”

Jim Lane is editor and publisher  of Biofuels Digest where  this article was originally published. Biofuels Digest is the most widely read  Biofuels daily read by 14,000+ organizations. Subscribe here.


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