With Amyris’s innovative technology, we design and construct biological systems turning organisms into living factories.
Amyris first developed its technology under a non-profit initiative to provide a reliable and affordable source of artemisinin, a highly effective anti-malarial therapeutic. We are now applying its industrial bioscience platform to provide alternatives to a broad range of petroleum-sourced products. Amyris’s renewable chemicals are being designed to perform comparably to, or better than, the products they will replace.
Our industrial production relies on established fermentation processes that use Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast to convert the sugar source into target molecules such as Biofene®, our company’s brand of farnesene. While we can use any fermentable sugar in our process, we are focused on Brazilian sugarcane because of cost, availability, and its ability to meet international sustainability standards.
Our first industrial manufacturing facility began operations in Brazil in December 2012. Located adjacent to a sugar mill, we convert sugarcane syrup into farnesene and other tailored molecules, producing a range of renewable products for our customers. Sugarcane syrup is fed directly from the mill to the fermentation plant, and the residual biomass from sugarcane crushing is used for co-generation of electricity and steam, with excess electricity returned to the grid. This ensures efficiency and a sustainable manufacturing process, with enough capacity to cover a growing demand.
In 2014 Amyris became the first biomaterial producer in Brazil to receive manufacturing process certification by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB). We are also working with Bonsucro, the world’s leading sugarcane sustainability standard to further improve our sustainable practices in the industry.
Amyris first developed and applied our technology to create microbial strains that produce artemisinic acid, a precursor of artemisinin, a highly effective anti-malarial therapeutic. This work was funded by a grant awarded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation via OneWorld Health (now PATH’s Drug Development Program).
More than 120 million treatments have been manufactured so far, with distribution in Burkina Faso, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Niger and Nigeria.
In 2008, Amyris made available its artemisinic acid-producing yeast strains to Sanofi, via OneWorld Health, on a royalty-free basis. Sanofi is now using this technology at large scale to produce artemisinin for ACT (artemisinin combination therapy) treatments. Sanofi currently has the capacity to produce up to 125 million treatments annually, which translates to one third of the global annual need for artemisinin, and will ensure its distribution under the “no profit, no loss” principle.
In the Nature article, the scientists described how they engineered simple baker’s yeast strains to produce unprecedented concentrations of artemisinic acid, a precursor to a malaria treatment. The details of this breakthrough in microbial engineering and process development can be found in the online version of Nature.