Nominated by: Scienceindustries Switzerland
Organisation in nomination: Firmenich
Terpenes are complex natural compounds and important raw materials for the fragrance & flavour and the pharmaceutical industries. However, problems exist through limited and fluctuating supplies.
Work at Firmenich to address this through biotechnology started as early as 2001, with the discovery of sesquiterpene synthases, creating potential for heterologous production in suitable host organisms.
In 2006, the isolation of a key gene involved in the synthesis of the fragrance alcohol from the patchouli plant was reported for the first time. Different biological production platforms were considered and initially tested, in collaboration with academic partners. The proof-of-concept work behind the biosynthetic platform approach laid the ground for a growing number of highly innovative, sustainable industrial biotechnology applications in the flavor and fragrance industry.
Using the same biosynthetic pathway and selecting a microbial production system, Firmenich, in collaboration with Amyris, pioneered industrial biotechnology for the fragrance industry with the launch of the Clearwood® ingredient in 2014 (winner of the prestigious SEPAWA innovation award in 2015), followed by Ambrox®Super in 2016, Z11 in 2018, and Dreamwood® in 2020.
Using advanced metabolic engineering, industrial biotechnology applications are rapidly gaining importance in the fragrance industry. This allows for a sustainable production based on renewable feedstocks, instead of limited or threatened botanical resources and gives access to new ingredients of a large, unexplored chemical space.