Taste-Maker Allylix Prepares to Make “Nootkatone” a Household Word, as San Diego Gains Momentum in Industrial Biotechnology

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are making San Diego something of a nub—if not quite a hub—for an emerging sector of sustainable technologies that use biotechnology to engineer algae, yeast, and microbes to manufacture chemicals without petroleum-based feedstocks. Without including the algae-based biofuels companies like Sapphire Energy and Synthetic Genomics, at least five other companies in this area besides Allylix are focused on industrial biotechnology to produce renewable chemicals: Carlsbad, CA-based Verdezyne, and San Diego’s CP Kelco, Genomatica; Senomyx (NASDAQ: [[ticker:SNMX); and the San Diego-based business units that Cambridge, MA-based Verenium recently sold to BP. (So far, it’s still unclear what BP plans to do with the business units, which are mostly the leftover operations of San Diego-based Diversa that were developing enzymes and cellulosic ethanol fuel.)

The field has been growing fast enough that two California nonprofit life sciences groups, San Diego’s Biocom and San Francisco’s BayBio, have organized the “California Industrial Biotech Conference,” a two-day event in downtown San Diego next month.

Fritz told me that industrial biotechnology was just beginning to germinate in San Diego when she arrived here more than a decade ago to oversee the first of two startup businesses for Dow Chemical. “When I came here in 2000, there was a little,” she said. “But it has grown quite significantly.”

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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