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.
- Shuiqin Wu, Michel Schalk, Anthony Clark, R. Brandon Miles, Robert Coates & Joe Chappell 2006, Redirection of cytosolic or plastidic isoprenoid precursors elevates terpene production in plants, Nature Biotechnology 24:1441–1447
- Fabienne Deguerry, Laurence Pastore, Shuiqin Wu, Anthony Clark, Joseph Chappell, Michel Schalk 2006, The diverse sesquiterpene profile of patchouli, Pogostemon cablin, is correlated with a limited number of sesquiterpene synthases, Arch Biochem Biophys 454:123-36
- Laurent Daviet & Michel Schalk 2010, Biotechnology in plant essential oil production: progress and perspective in metabolic engineering of the terpene pathwayFlavour and Fragrance 25:123-127
- Michel Schalk, Laurence Pastore, Marco A. Mirata, Samretthy Khim, Marina Schouwey, Fabienne Deguerry, Virginia Pineda, Letizia Rocci, and Laurent Daviet, 2012, Toward a Biosynthetic Route to Sclareol and Amber Odorants, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 134, 46, 18900–18903
- Firmenich`s clearwood® wins innovation prize, Press Release