Cathay Biotech and biological production of long chain dibasic acid

Long-chain dibasic acid, also called long-carbon chain dibasic acid, refers to a straight-carbon chain aromatic saturated dicarboxylic acid containing 10 or more carbon atoms. It is an important fine chemical intermediate and is widely used in chemical engineering, Dozens of high-tech materials industries such as light industry, pesticides, medicine, liquid crystal materials, military industry, and aerospace are using it.

This type of compound does not exist in nature, and is mainly obtained through chemical synthesis or biosynthesis. Most companies rely on chemical production methods. The main companies include DuPont, Invista, Degussa, Germany, and Ube Industries. After more than 40 years of unremitting efforts, the Institute of Microbiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has successfully developed a technology for the production of long-chain dibasic acids by biological fermentation. China has become the country with the most advanced biotechnology to produce long-chain dibasic acids in the world.

Geometric growth of market demand

With the rapid development of automotive, electronics, communications and high tech industries, China’s demand for long-chain dibasic acids is increasing. However, due to the lack of large-scale production technology in the early years, China’s long-chain dibasic acid relied on imports for a long time, until Cathay Bio’s biological long-chain dibasic acid was industrialized. Now Cathay Biotech’s long-chain dibasic acid products have accounted for 90% of the global market share. Using biosynthesis technology as a lever, Cathay Biosciences has leveraged the industry’s monopoly of chemical synthesis represented by INVISTA, and has become a leader in the long-chain acid market.

The biosynthesis method mainly uses petroleum by-product light wax oil (normal paraffin) as raw material, and converts it into long-chain dibasic acid through the catalysis of intracellular enzymes. Compared with chemical synthesis, the production process of biosynthesis is simpler and the production conditions are less demanding. With high profitability, low cost, and low environmental pollution, after a breakthrough in large-scale production, the cost of long-chain diacids in biosynthesis has been greatly reduced compared to chemical synthesis.

In addition to synthesizing high-performance nylon engineering plastics, high-grade musk fragrances, paints, coatings and lubricants, high-temperature dielectrics, and other uses, its applications in pharmaceutical development are also emerging. In recent years, long-chain dibasic acids have gradually shown special effects and broad prospects in the synthesis of pharmaceutical intermediates, breast cancer detection reagents, drugs for the treatment of skin cancer and AIDS, and the synthesis of new-type hypoglycemic drugs.

Many companies have entered the field

In 2002, Cathay Biotech built the world’s first large-scale production device for the production of long-chain dibasic acids by biological methods, and realized large-scale commercial production. In recent years of market competition, traditional chemical long-chain dibasic acids represented by INVISTA (mainly DC12 lauric acid, etc.) have gradually withdrawn from the market. At the end of 2015, INVISTA, which uses chemical methods to produce long-chain dibasic acids, announced that it would close its long-chain dibasic acid production line in the United States in March 2016. Cathay Biosciences replaced INVISTA and other chemical synthesis manufacturers in the industry. 

Cathay Biosciences is leading the market in the production of long-chain dibasic acids by biological methods, and has a global market share of 90% in this field. It has established a good relationship with major downstream customers such as DuPont, Imans, Evonik, and Novo Nordisk. In addition, the traditional production method of DC10 (sebacic acid) is the hydrolysis and cracking of castor oil, which is toxic to the human body. Cathay Biosciences will focus on developing the biological method DC10 (sebacic acid) market in conjunction with fund-raising projects, sharing more than 100,000 tons market space.

In addition to Cathay Bio, other manufacturers have announced plans to enter the field this year, such as the lauric acid project planned by Xinri Hengli in Ningxia, and the long-chain dibasic acid project of Sinopec Qingjiang Petrochemical Co., Ltd. However, compared with Cathay Bio’s current actual production capacity of 50,000 tons, there is still a big gap between the production capacity of these projects.

Biosynthesis will replace chemical synthesis

Biological method replaces chemical method of production, as an effective way to solve human’s excessive dependence on traditional petrochemical and chemical products, as well as the accompanying environmental pollution, safety risks and other problems, the future development space is very broad.

In addition to environmental protection, the greater breakthrough of biosynthesis is in cost. After the emergence of biological long-chain dibasic acid, the price of the product has been greatly reduced, and the market scale has also expanded significantly.

 Overseas, synthetic biology companies represented by Twist and Gingko are setting off an investment boom. Under the influence of these unicorn companies, there are also a number of synthetic biology startups in China that are setting sail, either focusing on the pharmaceutical field or Focus on new materials. These large and small companies are forming a force to announce to the world as a whole: biosynthesis may be the future of the industry.