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Butamax and Gevo: Bio’s Montagues and Capulets Get It On, and On, and On

Submitted by on April 17, 2012 – 10:21 amNo Comment

by Jim Lane (Biofuels Digest)  Here’s a 2-Minute Guide to all the Gevo and Butamax hollerin’, and how to separate the alcohol from the folderol.

In case it has escaped your attention, Butamax is suing Gevo and Gevo is suing Butamax. …we would also like to make three points, for consideration by the broader industry.

The broader issues

1. There’s gold in them thar ‘cules. …The mounting mountains of paper should be properly seen as a leading indicator of just how valuable a bio-based process to generate low-cost isobutanol from biomass can be, especially if you have figured out the engineering of  separating the alcohol from the broth before it kills the microorganism. …

2. The “Sue, Baby” gene that never stops expressing. In the bio-based space, if pharmatech and the Novozymes-Genencor wars offer any guide, one important byproduct of a successful fermentation process is a whole bunch of lawyering. …

3. Big Buckaroos at stake. Just in specialty chemicals, isobutanol is a $7B industry. On the speculative assumption that a bio-based prices could deliver into that market with a 20 percent margin, and that NASDAQ companies will continue to trade at around 20 times earnings, there’s roughly $28B in market value up for grabs in the isobutanol wars.

Throw in the addressable potential for $44 billion in specialty gasoline blendstock, globally, there’s another $176 billion there. Forget Gevo’s market cap of $236 million – DuPont’s market cap is $49 billion. Therein lies the potential for gateway molecules. And make no mistake, really foundational C4 molecules – those have gateway characteristics. …

The 2-Minute Guide to Butamax vs Gevo, and vice-versa

1. The idea. To make isobutanol, you need a microorganism that makes isobutanol from biomass, and a separation technology.  …

4. Butamax vs Gevo. Also, last year – and, well you be the judge on the merits of the timing, right in the middle of Gevo’s IPO road show, Butamax sued Gevo over infringement of the patents. That’s Butamax vs. Gevo, and it is set for trial in April 2013.

5. The Gevo response.  Gevo’s defense is two-pronged. One, they don’t infringe on the patent in their process. Two, the USPTO should never have granted ’188 or ’189 in the first place. …

6. Gevo vs Butamax. Gevo has, in turn, sued Butamax over infringement of its ’375, ’376, ’715 and ’808 patents.    READ MORE and MORE (Gevo) and MORE (Biofuels Digest)

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