CAMBRIDGE, MASS. (March 14, 2:15 p.m. ET) — In a deal between two bioplastics leaders, Metabolix Inc, has licensed a patent covering bio-based PLA resin to NatureWorks LLC.
The patent - known as the 199 patent - covers production of PLA blended with polybutylene succinic polymers and similar materials, officials with Cambridge, Mass.-based Metabolix said in a March 14 news release.
“This research greatly expands the uses of PLA in biodegradable plastics, because the blends allow for a stronger, more flexible form,” inventor and patent-holder Stephen McCarthy said in the release. McCarthy is a professor of plastics engineering at the
In a March 15 phone interview, Metabolix chief scientific officer Oliver Peoples said that his firm has a strong relationship with UMass-Lowell and “wanted to leverage that relationship to create value and to support and grow the bioplastics industry.”
Metabolix previously had licensed the patent to global chemicals giant BASF AG, which has used it to blend PLA with other materials in its Ecoflex-brand bioplastics. Adding NatureWorks to its list of licensees “taps into the two largest compostable plastics in the world,” Peoples said.
NatureWorks is based in
NatureWorks will use the Metabolix license to make materials through AmberWorks, a joint venture it formed recently with biochemicals firm BioAmber Inc. of
The Metabolix license “allows (NatureWorks) to make compounds we couldn't make before,” Davies added.
Metabolix last year started commercial production of bio-based Mirel-brand PHA resin at a plant in
Metabolix has struggled financially, losing almost $40 million in 2011 on revenue of less than $1.5 million. Almost two-thirds of the firm's 2011 revenue came from grants. On Wall Street, Metabolix's per-share stock price was above $10 in early 2011 but had declined to about $3.15 in late trading March 15.
NatureWorks posted sales gains of more than 20 percent in 2011, both in dollars and sales volume in pounds, Davies said. The firm is planning for similar growth this year. Its 350 million pound-capacity PLA plant in Blair is expected to be at full capacity by 2015. That same year is when the firm plans to open a second site – with annual capacity of 300 million pounds – in
Davies said that