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Metabolix, Inc.
Industry Bioplastics, Specialty Chemicals
Headquarters Cambridge, MA, USA
Key people
Joseph Shaulson (CEO), Anthony J. Sinskey (Founder), Joseph D. Hill (CFO), Oliver P. Peoples (CSO)
Owner Fidelity Investments, Jack Schuler, State Farm Insurance, others
Number of employees

Metabolix, Inc. is a bioplastics technology development and commercialization company founded in 1992. Metabolix is an advanced biomaterials company focused on sustainable solutions for the plastics and chemicals industries. The company's headquarters is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[1]

Since 2006 Metabolix has been a publicly traded company.[2] As of December 2013, Metabolix has approximately 100 full-time employees and offices in the US, Canada, and Germany.[3]

Metabolix develops and commercializes high-performance PHA biopolymers targeted to the markets for film and bag applications, performance additives and functional biodegradation. The company opened an office in Cologne, Germany in April 2012.[4]


Founded in 1992 with the help of a licensing agreement with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT),[3] Metabolix, Inc. is a bioscience company with headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Metabolix provides sustainable solutions to the plastic, chemical and energy industries. Oliver Peoples, Ph.D., and Anthony Sinskey, Ph.D., co-founded Metabolix after work at the (MIT) that identified the elementary methods and means for engineering polyhydroxyalkanoates out of plants and bacteria, thus making them biodegradable.[5]

In April, 2012, Metabolix opened its first international office in Cologne, Germany. The office is strategically located in the BioCampus Cologne life science park, which has been one of Germany's largest biotechnology parks since 2002.[4] This office was opened to handle business development, customer service, and technical support to Metabolix's European business partners and biopolymer customers.

Current work[edit]

Metabolix, Inc. is developing and commercializing high-performance PHA biopolymers for performance additives, film and bag applications, and functional biodegradation. Metabolix's technology platforms are creating sustainable solutions in the world of plastics, chemicals and energy.[1] The company is also in the process of developing platforms to co-produce plastics, chemicals, and energy from crops.[6]


Metabolix has been recognized for its research, development and product innovations through a series of prestigious awards and grants including: the "Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award" (2005),[7] the "New Technologies in Renewable Materials and Processes Award" (2006),[8] the "Technology Pioneer Award" (2010),[9] and the Museum of Science Boston's "Invented Here!" award (2011).[10]



Metabolix performance PHA biopolymers are produced in microorganisms, and are therefore biodegradable by similar organisms present in environments such as soil and water.[11]


Mirel soil and marine biodegradable polymers help to reduce plastic waste accumulation in the environment. Mirel is a product of corn sugar fermentation with proprietary genetically engineered bacteria.

In July 2007, Metabolix released a 100% biodegradable gift card product for Target. If put into a home composting area, the card would completely biodegrade in about 40 days.[12][13]

In 2010, Metabolix began work with Ball Horticultural to create SoilWraps using Mirel.[14] SoilWraps are bottomless biodegradable flower pots that can be planted directly in a home garden.[15]


Metabolix has designed the Mvera product line for applications including compost bags and can liners used for organic waste, as well as shopping and retail bags that can be reused as compostable organic waste bags. In 2013, Metabolix launched Mvera B5010 and B5011, which are certified compostable by Vinçotte to meet the EN 13432 standard for compostable plastics.[16][17] These compostable film resins are designed for blown/cast film processing with both opaque (B5010) and transparent (B5011) performance, and exhibit many of the same performance qualities of petroleum-based resins.[18]

In October 2011, Andolfi & C., an Italian films, packaging, and bags company, began using Mvera for a line of compostable plastic bags.[19]

Performance additives[edit]

Metabolix is developing performance additives for a range of plastics in both the traditional and biobased markets. Metabolix has found PHA brings a number of performance benefits to plastics including PLA and PVC. Recently, they have announced a new grade designed specifically to modify PLA.[20] In this application, PHA acts as a flexibilizer and impact modifier.

PHA latex[edit]

Metabolix recently announced that it is developing a new grade of PHA latex for paper coatings.[21]

Biobased chemicals[edit]

Metabolix is working to create biochemicals that work as high-performance replacements for petroleum-based products, with focus on C3 and C4 chemicals.[22]

Biobased GBL/BDO[edit]

Gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) and butanediol (BDO) are industrial chemicals produced from hydrocarbons: natural gas, oil, and other fossil-based sources. Metabolix has developed a system for producing renewable GBL using a proprietary FAST system. The GBL can then be converted to BDO via a catalytic process.[22]

Biobased acrylic acid[edit]

Metabolix is developing techniques to produce sustainable biobased acrylic acid. The company is currently developing the FAST process for recovering acrylic acid.[23]

Crop technologies[edit]

The centerpiece of the Metabolix's plant technology is polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), the simplest member of the broad polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) family of biopolymers. They have worked with switchgrass, camelina, sugarcane, as well as tobacco.[24]

In 2009, Metabolix completed a field trial producing PHA in a tobacco crop.[25]

In 2012, Metabolix secured an ARPA-E grant to improve productivity of biofuel production in plants, specifically camelina.[26]

In 2011, Metabolix was awarded a $6.0 million grant to produce PHB in switchgrass and to develop methods to thermally convert the PHB-containing switchgrass to crotonic acid and a higher density residual biomass fraction for production of biofuel.[27]

Joint venture[edit]

In 2006, Metabolix and Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) announced a strategic alliance to manufacture and commercialize high-performance natural plastics.[28]

On January 13, 2012 ADM announced that it was terminating the joint venture. Metabolix's stock plunged 56% to $2.64 immediately following this announcement,[29] leading to a class action suit.


Following the collapse of the Telles joint venture, shareholders of Metabolix filed a class-action lawsuit claiming that executives knowingly misled them about the viability of the production process of Mirel. The case, Coyne et al. v. Metabolix, Inc., was filed on February 17, 2012 in Boston's federal court, citing Section 12(a)(2) of the Securities Act of 1933. It names executives Eno and Hill in addition to Metabolix.[30][31] On September 20, 2013, the court dismissed the case for failure to state a claim.[32]


  1. ^ a b About
  2. ^ Bradt, George (2013-01-30). "Planning Your Future When the Future You Had Planned Goes Awry". Forbes-Leadership. Forbes. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  3. ^ a b "Metabolix, Inc. Annual Report 2013". 2014-03-28. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  4. ^ a b Valigra, Lori (2012-04-18). "Metabolix opens office in Germany". Mass High Tech. Boston Business Journal. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  5. ^ Trafton, Anne (2009-11-17). "One word: bioplastics". MIT News Office. MIT. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  6. ^ Products
  7. ^ "The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards Program" (PDF). The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards Program: Summary of 2005 Award Entries and Recipients. Environmental Protection Agency: 8. 2005. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  8. ^ Barber, James (2006-04-18). "Metabolix Garners Environmental Award from Society of Plastics Engineers". Metabolix, Inc. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  9. ^ "List of Technology Pioneers 2010". World Economic Forum. Archived from the original on 2014-06-09. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  10. ^ "Invented Here!". Museum of Science Boston. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  11. ^ Winter, Caroline (2012-01-05). "Keeping the Sea Safe from Plastic". Bloomberg Businessweek. Bloomberg. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  12. ^ Barry E. DiGregorio (January 2009). "Biobased Performance Bioplastic: Mirel" (PDF). Chemistry & Biology. 16: 1–2. doi:10.1016/j.chembiol.2009.01.001. PMID 19171300. 
  13. ^ Dell, Kristina (2010-05-03). "The Promise and Pitfalls of Bioplastic". Time Magazine. Time. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  14. ^ Yoneda, Yuka (2012-04-17). "Revolutionary Soil Wrap is a Flower Container You Can Plant". inhabitat. 
  15. ^ "Ball Horticultural and Costa Farms Launch New Mirel-based SoilWrap Biodegradable Plant Container". 2012-04-23. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  16. ^ "Metabolix Launches Mvera™ B5010, A New Compostable Film Grade Resin". 2013-09-16. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  17. ^ "Metabolix Launches Mvera™ B5011, A New Certified Compostable Film Grade Resin For Transparent Film And Bag Applications". 2013-12-03. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  18. ^ Lane, Jim (2012-12-04). "Paper, plastic of Mvera? Metabolix's new compostable resin for retail shopping, trash bags". Time Magazine. BioBasedDigest. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  19. ^ "Andolfi Selects Telles' Mirel Bioplastic Film Product for New Line of Compostable Bags". 2011-10-24. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  20. ^ "Metabolix To Present PLA Performance Improvements Using PHA Performance Modifiers At 3rd Annual PLA World Congress". 2014-05-27. Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  21. ^ Brum, Lynne (2014-05-15). "Working towards a truly degradable coffee cup: Metabolix PHA latex for paper coating". Retrieved 2014-06-08. 
  22. ^ a b Biobased Chemicals
  23. ^ Biobased Acrylic Acid
  24. ^ Crop-based Technologies
  25. ^ "Metabolix Completes Field Trial of Bioplastic-Producing Tobacco Crop". 2009-10-22. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  26. ^ Seiffert, Don (2012-12-06). "Metabolix stock up 20 percent after ARPA-E grant". Mass High Tech. Boston Business Journal. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  27. ^ "U.S. Department of Energy Awards Metabolix $6 Million Grant to Develop Renewable Biofuels". 2011-05-16. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  28. ^ "Metabolix and ADM Enter Strategic Alliance to Commercialize PHA Natural Polymers". 2004-11-04. Retrieved 2013-03-01. 
  29. ^ Lad, Divya (2012-01-13). "Metabolix hits life low as joint venture partner exits". Reuters. Bangalore. 
  30. ^ "Block & Leviton LLP Files Securities Class Action Against Metabolix, Inc". 2012-03-27. Retrieved 2012-03-27. 
  31. ^ "Coyne et al v. Metabolix, Inc". Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  32. ^ "12-10318 - COYNE, ET AL. V. METABOLIX, INC., ET AL." Retrieved 2014-06-08. 


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