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   Non-TechMetabolix [MBLX] a Full Disclosure Thread

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To: Sam Citron who wrote (61)11/19/2008 1:23:58 PM
From: Glenn Petersen
   of 78
I was thinking the same thing, though there are no guarantees that they will be successful (and profitable) when they start shipping product next year. I think that the stock might start moving up during the first quarter in anticipation. If the technology is viable, this is a long-term winner. The problem is: Have we seen the bottom?

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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (62)11/20/2008 4:33:05 PM
From: Sam Citron
   of 78
Given the state of the market, I'm frankly surprised MBLX is still above $2. I have to wonder how much appetite will remain for green investments in this carnage. It's going to take guts for politicians to do ANYTHING that hurts consumers any further.


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To: Sam Citron who wrote (63)11/27/2008 10:41:43 PM
From: Glenn Petersen
   of 78
It's going to take guts for politicians to do ANYTHING that hurts consumers any further.

Normally I would agree with you. However, while most of Barack Obama's initial staff and cabinet appointments have come from the center, his rhetoric, and the rhetoric of the Democratic Congress, has continued to be aggressive on environmental issues. The replacement of Dingell with Waxman may be an indication of where we are heading.

Given the carnage, MBLX does look pricey at $7.00.

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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (64)3/2/2009 3:34:47 PM
From: Sam Citron
   of 78
I Have Just One Word for You: Bioplastics [BW]

The scourge of indestructible garbage and sky-high oil are fueling interest in plastics from plants. Is it time for tiny biotech Metabolix to get more respect on Wall Street?

By Mara Der Hovanesian

For half of his life and all of his 25-year career as a bioengineer, Oliver P. Peoples has wanted to prove two things: that he could reengineer plants to grow biodegradable plastic in their cells and that he could make a lot of money doing it.

On the first goal, Peoples has had astonishing success. His Cambridge (Mass.) company, Metabolix (MBLX), has harnessed the complex genetics of plant-cell metabolism and collected hundreds of patents on a process for manufacturing "bioplastics" in large vats of microbes. A $200million factory is under construction and could start producing Metabolix's bioplastic, called Mirel, early next year. But Peoples' second mission, amassing wealth for himself and his investors, is glaringly incomplete. Mauled in the bear market and pounded by manufacturing delays, Metabolix's shares have spiraled down from a peak of 28 last November to around 11 in recent weeks.

The company is now in a crucible every struggling biotech encounters. As it awaits commercial production, it is burning through cash. And it must carefully pick the right customers to showcase Mirel's wide range of applications, from gift cards and cosmetics cases to plastic bags and computer parts.

Despite the intense pressure, the tall, Scottish-born biologist barely registers concern. Moving with calm determination among cell cultures and seedlings in the company's 13,000-square-foot lab and greenhouse, Peoples, 50, explains why he and his backers are unperturbed by the low share price. As oil prices spike up, so does the cost of plastic materials, virtually all of which are petroleum-based. In addition, consumer groups and environmentalists around the world are in an uproar over the billions of tons of plastic waste that get dumped at sea or buried in landfills and over the health effects of related toxins. Almost 30million tons a year of plastic solid waste is dumped into the U.S., and about 5% is recycled. These trends fuel demand for novel bioplastics that aren't linked to pricey fossil fuels and don't harm the environment. Peoples says the stock market hasn't recognized these forces; it's simply running away from risk. "When you're a small-cap company, the risk profile is higher, so you get a disproportionate share of the downturn," he says, a faint accent evident in his measured diction.

Peoples may find it easy to stick to his guns because the world's top suppliers of plastics and their customers have all recognized the larger trends. DuPont (DD) fired up its first biomaterials plant in 2006, selling more than a $100million worth of products in the past year, including its bioplastic called Sorona. Starting in 2009, Cargill's NatureWorks unit hopes to ship 140,000metric tons a year of a bioplastic called Ingeo, for use in fresh food containers and textiles, among other things. Brazilian petrochemical giant Braskem (BAK) is spending $300million on a factory for sugarcane-based bioplastics, while Toray Industries of Japan is making plastics from fermented plant starches and sugars. There's also a host of U.S. startups with names such as Novomer and Cereplast (CERP.OB) that make plastics from wheat, tapioca, potatoes, soy, and more. "We've gone from being mad scientists to being visionaries," says Frederic Scheer, CEO of Cereplast, based in Hawthorne, Calif.

All these materials are green in the sense that they reduce dependence on fossil fuels. But while rival bioplastics must be incinerated or composted at high temperatures, Mirel will decompose if it is simply tossed in a home compost heap or dumped at sea. "Mirel is the one that works in all environments," says Joseph P. Greene, a professor in mechanical engineering and manufacturing at California State University at Chico, who was hired by the state to find the best bioplastic on the market. "It breaks down nicely with food or yard waste. Boom, 180 days later and it's nice brown dirt." What's more, the manufacturer determines how fast the plastic biodegrades into harmless plant materials and the conditions under which that happens. About 50 potential customers, including Target (TGT), Revlon (REV), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), medical supply company Labcon, and the U.S. military, are testing Mirel in more than 70 different products. "We have to do something [because] most plastic just ends up in a bad place," says Jim Happ, president of Labcon, which is testing Mirel to replace some 3million pounds of plastic it uses each year in 800 products for hospital labs. "We love their polymer," says JoAnn Ratto, an engineer at a U.S. Army research center in Natick, Mass., which is evaluating Mirel as a liner for waste bags that are thrown overboard by naval ships. "We can't get enough of it."

Mirel is made in large vats of genetically modified microbes. They gorge on glucose from corn, then convert the sugar into fatty globules, which make up more than 80% of the cells by weight. These are harvested, dried, and turned into pellets. It all sounds painless enough, but getting the microbes to comply requires marvels of genetic engineering.

Peoples is an unlikely miracle worker. He grew up poor in Slamannan, a remote, windswept coal mining town between Glasgow and Edinburgh. His father died when he was 16, leaving little for his family of 11 children. "Olly" was spared a life in the mines by the attention of his high school chemistry teacher, who helped him get into the prestigious University of Aberdeen. After he earned his PhD in molecular biology in 1983, he landed a postgrad spot at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Pulling himself out of poverty and cultivating a competitive streak at MIT prepared him for the life of an entrepreneur, says Pamela Bassett, a Cantor Fitzgerald analyst in New York. "Most scientists want to publish, especially if you're at MIT," she says. "Olly wants to commercialize."

With a background in biochemistry, Peoples sensed early on that genetic engineering would open up whole new commercial landscapes. Most of his lab mates were interested in medical biotech, and several started companies that hit the jackpot, with lush buyouts by drug giants. Peoples yearned for a similar fate. But unlike many of his peers, he bypassed medicine and plunged into industrial applications. MIT filed for patents on his work in 1987, and by the time they were approved four years later, Peoples had negotiated exclusive licenses and mapped out a business plan for a new company. Metabolix was launched in June, 1992.

Perfecting his recipe for bioplastics proved harder than Peoples thought. And when he brought his business plan to Dow Chemical (DOW), DuPont, and others, they rolled their eyes. "We've been laughed out the door more than once," says Peoples. "We thought the sky would open and money would pour down from the heavens. But the reception was underwhelming." To stay afloat, the company went through 11 rounds of financing, plus an initial public offering in November, 2006. All the while, researchers struggled to raise the plastic content in cells.

The breakthrough came in 2004, when Peoples finally hit the plastic yield target. "Biodegradable plastics had a lot of catching up to do, but the science has provided the means to go from research to industrial-grade applications and make it profitable," says Carmen Scholz, a chemistry professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville who studies such materials. "If it weren't profitable, no one would lay a hand on it."

Total global production of bioplastics is still minuscule. All the manufacturers combined will generate only about 1million tons a year by 2010, analysts say, compared with 500million tons a year of the petro-based variety. But these ordinary plastics, which account for up to 10% of total U.S. oil consumption, are quickly becoming an extravagance at $138 for a barrel of crude. A switch to bioplastics not only would help reduce oil dependence but also could save companies and consumers serious money. With Dow Chemical hiking the price of its plastic products by up to 20% on June1, some types of bioplastics from Cereplast and others already cost less. If oil stays high, bioplastics could capture 20% of the global plastics market in as little as five years, predicts Jeff Bishop, an independent analyst at Beacon Equity Research in San Francisco. "It's a no-brainer where customers are going to gravitate," he says. John Pierce, DuPont's head of biosciences, calls bioplastics "an opportunity we measure in the billions of dollars."

Mirel is aimed at the premium niche. It will cost more than $2 a pound, vs. under a dollar for commodity bioplastics. And it has some serious backing. Around 2004, with the jump in yields from the company's cell cultures, food and chemical companies suddenly began returning Peoples' phone calls. Metabolix negotiated a partnership with agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), which wanted to supply feedstock for cell cultures. Peoples doggedly held out for a 50/50 split of future revenues. As part of the joint venture, ADM pledged in 2007 to build a $200million factory in Clinton, Iowa. It will crank out 55,000tons of Mirel a year starting in early 2009. John D. Rice, ADM's vice-president in charge of the partnership, says: "Our hope and dream is for it to be very successful."

Having proved his science is valid, Peoples wants to scale up production of Mirel without relying on food crops such as corn. Funded by the U.S. Energy Dept., he's trying to bioengineer switchgrass and other plants to produce the plastic in their leaves. If he can pull it off, Metabolix could reap billions of pounds of bioplastics on just a fraction of the acreage currently given over to corn. It'll be a challenge, but Peoples, ever the scientist, says: "The stuff that is easy to do is not that interesting."

A Plastic Pacific

Google "garbage island" and check out a growing ecological catastrophe called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Featured on CNN, it's a "massive stew of unwanted waste" twice the size of Texas in a remote area of the Pacific, northeast of Hawaii. The fast-growing patch was discovered in 1997 by Captain Charles Moore, who founded the nonprofit Algalita Marine Research Foundation in Long Beach, Calif. He reckons bits of plastic now outnumber plankton in many parts of world's seas.

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To: Sam Citron who wrote (65)3/6/2009 8:09:32 AM
From: Glenn Petersen
   of 78
[t]MBLX[/t] has been cut in half since that article was published.

A few observations:

-- The company has not yet filed its 10-K. According to the third quarter 10-Q, Tellas, the joint-venture with Archer Daniels Midland, will start producing commercial quantities of Mirel during the second quarter of 2009. As of September 30, the company had $94.6 million in cash and short-term investments on hand, offset by $29 million in deferred revenues (advances from ADM). The company is losing about $10 million per quarter.

-- According to the analysts surveyed by Yahoo, the company will generate revenues of $24.8 million this year (up from an estimated $1.9 million in 2008) and lose $1.58 per share.

-- The decline in oil prices has removed their cost advantage.

Hoping for $4 or lower.

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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (66)3/6/2009 10:06:43 AM
From: Sam Citron
   of 78
There's plenty of time to catch this fish.


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To: Sam Citron who wrote (67)12/3/2009 8:24:54 PM
From: Glenn Petersen
   of 78
[t]MBLX[/t] (<span style='font-size:11px'>LAST</span>: 11.56<span style='font-size:11px'> 12/3/2009 4:39:11 PM</span>) closed at $11.56 today, giving the company a market cap of approximately $301 million. The company is still in the development stage and does not yet have a commercial product. Its plant is still under construction. As of September 30, the company had approximately $70 million in cash and short-term investments. Revenues for the first nine months of 2009 were $29,000 and the company lost $28.2 million. The deferred revenue account stands at $36.9 million.

Metabolix 10-Q for the period ending September 30, 2009

The company recently sold 3 million shares at $9 each.

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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (68)12/5/2009 6:45:53 PM
From: Sam Citron
   of 78
Like a great many small caps, MBLX has doubled off its March bottom. I don't see this as company-specific, although I have not been following MBLX closely lately.

So I was surprised to hear in your post that "the plant is still under construction" as I thought I remembered hearing construction was supposed to be completed by this time. At first I wondered if last year's floods might have contributed to a delay in construction.

Then I noticed an interesting para. in the Q you linked to:

The “Construction Phase” of the commercial alliance will end, and the “Commercial Phase” will begin, upon the achievement of a milestone referred to in the Commercial Alliance Agreement as “First Commercial Sale.” Achievement of this milestone requires the sale by Telles to third parties of at least one million pounds of Mirel manufactured at the Commercial Manufacturing Facility. Sales must meet certain criteria, including a minimum order size, and payment must be received from the customer in order for such sales to contribute towards the First Commercial Sale milestone.

Last CC had additional language on this subject. Here is what CFO Joe Hill had to say on 10/29/09:

The current target within the plant is to have everything basically out of construction into operations hands in November, in which case all of the facilities will be in the final start up process. So, we expect to have initial fermentation batches in mid-December and recovery will go just after that. So, it is getting very close.

Because there are so many other fish in the sea, I have not spent the time to research this more carefully. But I have noticed that more and more jurisdictions have been acting to discourage plastic bag usage.

The tobacco news is also interesting as is Rubbermaid prospect.

Let's see what develops.


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From: Sam Citron12/17/2009 11:54:58 AM
   of 78
Kodak to Help to Make Plastic Wrap from Carbon Dioxide 1 comment
by: Greentech Media December 14, 2009 | about: EK
By Michael Kanellos

Although it's made partly from carbon dioxide, Novomer says that its plastic wrap will be better for food.

The company's polypropylene carbonate (PPC) – which consists of 50 percent fossil fuels and 50 percent carbon dioxide – provides a better barrier against oxygen than traditional PPC, which comes completely from fossil fuels. Ideally, that will allow food to stay fresher longer and prevent spoilage.

With help from Kodak (EK), the world may be able to test that out in the near future. The company that once ruled the photographic market will built a pilot scale production facility with Novomer that will effectively let potential industrial customers obtain largish quantities of plastic wraps and coatings to test. Novomer, a spin-out of Cornell that raised $14 million in August, right now can only make very small quantities.

Ultimately, Novomer hopes to bring other types of plastics to the market. It could be swapped in for the acrylic currently used in those disposal diapers piling up in landfills.

There's a lot to like about this deal, and other similar deals between startups and industrial giants, like the one between green chemistry specialist LS9 and Proctor and Gamble. Currently, plastics manufacturing and plastics themselves consume about 10 percent of the oil in the U.S. If Novomer's process somehow went universal, fuel consumption could be dropped by 5 percent. The U.S. only has about 5 percent of the world's oil reserves so it's a significant gain. It could also bring the percentage of oil imports down from the current 65 percent plateau to where oil imports were in the middle of the decade. (Other companies, such as Axion International and Sollega, meanwhile, are devising ways to fashion products like building materials and solar racks out of somewhat cheap discarded plastic.)

It could also help foster economical carbon capture. When the technology is mature, Novomer claims it could be cost-competitive with fossil based plastics even without carbon capture, according to Mike Slowik, the strategic planning and analysis manager for the company. The material won't be as cheap as regular plastic, but manufacturers often have specific needs and formulas and will pay extra for companies that can meet their specific requirements. That is part of the reason you are seeing some biofuel companies emphasize green chemicals over fuel, which is more of a true commodity. If Novomer can thread the performance/price needle, it can definitely stay in any bidding wars.

"We can be competitive at scale without subsidies," he said.

Third, it could help revitalize jobs in hard-hit areas like upstate New York and the midwest. Finally, it could help manufacturers insulate themselves from commodity price swings.

But first, Novomer and Kodak have to prove it works.

The company's secret sauce is a series of chemical catalysts discovered by Cornell professor Geoffrey Coates that can prompt a reaction between epoxides (a fossil fuel material) and carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide at low temperatures and pressures. Right now, Novomer uses industrial grade carbon dioxide but it should be able to accommodate scrubbed gases from smokestacks.

By using Novomer's chemistry, the fossil fuel content in a polymer can be cut from 100 percent to 50 percent. Ultimately, the fossil figure might drop to zero. Researchers tried to devise similar catalysts for decades "but we are 30,000 times more efficient than they were in the 70s," CEO Jim Mahoney told us earlier this year.

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From: scion2/17/2010 11:44:01 AM
   of 78
Irish startup turns waste plastic into biodegradable products

By Lisa Sibley
Published 2009-12-09 15:13

What began as research project to produce biodegradable plastics from waste has evolved into a company that now has large scale ambitions.

Ireland-based Bioplastech is converting waste, agricultural byproducts and petrochemical products into value added biodegradable plastic polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), Kevin O’Connor told the Cleantech Group today. PHAs are linear polyesters produced by bacterial fermentation of sugar or lipids, according to Wikipedia, and can store carbon and energy.

O’Connor, who heads the company’s management team, is a senior lecturer in microbiology at University College Dublin, Ireland, which developed the technology and is collaborating with Trinity College Dublin.

Started in 2008, Bioplastech is also looking at waste food oils and biodiesel, though the main driver to begin the 10-employee company was waste plastic, O’Connor said, comparing it to most companies which are going the biomass route. The company is looking to test its lab-proven technology on a larger level.

“We’re looking to scale the fermentation side of it and also produce the polymers so we can work with a number of partners,” he said.

The company has been funded with about €10 million ($14.7 million) from the Irish government, including government development agency Enterprise Ireland, which supports indigenous companies and academic research (see Trinity College Dublin looks to bring cleantech innovation to market [1]).

O’Connor said Bioplastech is seeking €5 million to €7 million in new investment to build the company’s infrastructure, scale up production, and develop patentable products for various industries including the agricultural and biomedical sectors. O’Connor declined to disclose the kinds of products.

The funding would be used to build a pilot scale facility to demonstrate the technology. O’Connor said a European partner has agreed to build a subsequent commercial scale facility if Bioplastech can demonstrate its technology at pilot scale. Its global potential customers range from the ag and biomedical fields to general packaging.

In Europe, it ranges from €100 to €200 per ton to get rid of the waste, he said. Companies pay to have it collected, which is in turn sold at a markup to China.

“There’s a growing need to deal with plastic wastes,” he said, describing how when oil prices dropped, the plastics recycling industry collapsed.

China, which is one of the single biggest importers of plastics, reverted to virgin oil; the country didn’t want to pay for plastic waste at uncompetitive prices, he said. Instead, it is ending up in landfills, or in the case of Ireland, O’Connor said it is being warehoused.

“Waste plastic is something people are willing to pay to get rid of. That has a certain business advantage,” he said.

O’Connor thinks his company’s technology holds an advantage in that it’s the first medium chain linked PHA. Most companies are working with short chain length PHA, where demand currently outweighs production. However, medium chain length PHA is a superior thermoplastic elastomer that offers water resistance and barrier properties.

The company plans to profit by licensing the resin for its products and partnering to produce the plastic.

The company’s competition includes companies such as U.S.-based Metabolix [2], which is making bioplastics from starch-based materials such as corn (see Metabolix, ADM to open new bioplastics factory [3] and New bioplastic from Metabolix and ADM is biodegradable [4]).

Bioplastech is one of 20 potential new investment opportunities the Cleantech Group added to its innovation pipeline this week, available exclusively to members of the Cleantech Network [5]. Members can click here [6] to search the database.

Interested in emerging cleantech innovations? Here are two new international companies added to the Cleantech Group's database this week also looking for funding:
McLean, Va.-based Perseid Solar is currently seeking $10 million in startup capital. The company provides fully configured solar systems with architectural and engineering support so that its customers have grid-tied photovoltaic power.
Denmark-based NewCo is seeking an unspecified amount of funding to develop its pilot phase, a global sales strategy, and build a fiber board plant in Naestved, a commercial town in Zealand, Denmark. The company develops a technology to turn sludge waste from paper production into useful building boards for walls, partitioning, and ceilings.

Seeking capital, partners or customers? Submit to the Cleantech Group’s innovation pipeline [7].

Bacteria That Eat Plastic to Make Plastic Goes Commercial

Michael Kanellos 04 07 09, 1:58 PM

Thanks to Todd Kimmel of Mayfield Fund and overall green chemistry fan for updating us on this one.

Last year, we wrote about how Kevin O’Connor at University of College Dublin had come up with a way to recycle old plastic bottles and containers with microorganisms. The bugs eat a cooked down version of a plastic bottle and metabolize it into new, saleable molecules. If I could do that, I’d never leave home.

The plastic that comes out of the digestive process is also biodegradable. It can go safely into a landfill and will disappear over time.

O’Connor has since formed a company, called Bioplastech, to commercialize it. CrapPlastic is funner, but might spook investors.

If the process can be brought up to an industrial level, it could help the world get rid of the nation-sized mass of plastic that humanity has generated. Right now, there are two general ways of dealing with old plastic.

Some countries, like England and Ireland, ship it to other countries after doing the green thing and recycling. Plastic bottles have a low recycling value; hence, a lot of the plastic ends up in landfills forever. (But the Irish are big into recycling — a 15 cent tax on plastic bags dropped their use by over 99 percent, O’Connor said.)

The other method to “recycle” plastic is to burn it. Sweden, Switzerland, Germany and other countries practice it. It yields useable energy, but it’s not the cleanest practice in the world either.

Bioplastech’s process works like this. Polypropylene (plastic) is cooked until it turns into a styrene oil. The oil is then fed to microorganisms, which metabolically turn it into globules of fatty acids.

When 60 percent of the bacteria consists of those fatty acids, the microorganism is split open and the harvested fatty acids are converted to a biodegradable plastic. See why bacteria make such good workers?

Keep your eye on Ireland in cleantech and advance science, by the way. For years, the Irish tech industry primarily concentrated on serving as an outsourcing destination for multinationals. But in about 2000, the government — realizing that Ireland was no longer a low-cost center — began to invest in technology transfer center and incubators.

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