Synthetic biology company, Intrexon Corporation, says its Industrial Products Division has achieved the bioconversion of methane to farnesene in the lab. Farnesene is a key building block chemical for diesel fuel, and also for other lubricants and specialty products, including cosmetics, rubber, and plastics. This is the second product, following isobutanol, which Intrexon has upgraded from natural gas employing its unique cellular engineering capabilities.
Intrexon is developing microbial cell lines genetically enhanced to convert methane to higher carbon content compounds at ambient temperatures and pressures, thereby reducing the significant expenditures compared to standard gas-to-liquid (GTL) processes. Intrexon says traditional conversion platforms rely on costly thermochemical catalytic processes, such as the Fischer-Tropsch method of carbon upgrading, or depend on available sugar-based technologies or plant-based feedstocks.
Intrexon has developed an advanced suite of tools that enable rapid manipulation of methanotrophs, the only organism found in nature that naturally consumes methane. Methanotrophs are reportedly challenging to genetically engineer as the requisite tools are generally not available and detailed microbial regulatory and physiological information are lacking.
As far as farnesene is concern, Amyris is currently the only company the blog knows that is already commercially selling the chemical as well as products incorporating farnesene.