Genomatica co-founder focuses on sustainable bio-manufacturing
ELIZABETH MALLOY, The Daily Transcript
As the president, chief executive and co-founder of the sustainable chemicals company Genomatica, Christophe Schilling is both in the lab developing products and on the road drumming up support for his business.
Schilling, 37, and his co-founder Bernhard Palsson, wanted to change chemical processes through bio-manufacturing, which is more sustainable. The company focuses on chemicals that are essential to major industries and are incorporated into products that are part of the everyday world.
With a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering from Duke University and a doctorate in bioengineering from the University of California, San Diego, Schilling holds some of Genomatica's core technology patents, but he's also been essential in securing funding.
A privately held company, Genomatica is largely funded with venture capital and grants. Under Schilling's direction, the company secured more than $10 million in research and development funding through over 30 federal research awards from agencies including the Department of Energy, National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense, and the National Science Foundation. The company also credits him with successful efforts to secure financing from leading venture capital firms in 2007, which has enabled the current phase of the company's growth.
In March, the company announced that a group of firms, including TPG Biotech, Mohr Davidow Ventures, Alloy Ventures and Draper Fisher Jurvetson collectively invested $15 million in Genomatica.
The company has a team of more 40 researchers and other employees, bringing sustainable chemicals to the world.
Genomatica is currently trying to scale up its flagship process for commercial-scale production of 1,4 butanediol (BDO). BDO is used to make high-performance polymers, solvents and fine chemicals in clothing, cars and electronics. In 2007, the world consumed approximately 2.5 billion pounds of BDO, made entirely from non-renewable hydrocarbon feedstocks. The global market for BDO is valued at approximately $4 billion per year.
The company is also looking to expand its pipeline to include additional large-market chemical targets that the company aims to produce from renewable feedstocks. As company president, Schilling has secured commercial collaborations and licensing transactions with large companies like Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW), Cargill, DSM and Unilever (NYSE: UL) to make these projects work.
A native of Michigan, Schilling started Genomatica in 2000 with Palsson, a UCSD professor with whom he had worked while studying there. The company is built on much of Palsson's research, but credits Schilling with advancing and promoting the use of computational modeling and simulation technologies in life sciences at Genomatica.
In April of this year, Schilling won a prestigious award from his undergrad alma mater, Duke University's Distinguished Young Alumnus Award.
"His ambition to positively impact the environment is matched by his desire to succeed as an entrepreneur," Professor Tom Katsouleas, dean of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University, said upon granting Schilling the award.