#BIOWC18 | Day 2 Wrap-Up

#BIOWC18 | Day 2 Wrap-Up

At the start of the second day of programming at the 2018 BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology, attendees took in a breakfast plenary discussion as panelists explored biobased materials and how biobased innovations are redesigning markets and fashion trends.

At a conference where biofuels, enzymes, proteins and industrial processes take center stage, some attendees may have been questioning the role industrial biotechnology has in fashion.

However, as moderator Jim Lane, editor of The Digest, emphasized throughout the discussion “there is something here for you.”

Lane comments became the unofficial theme for the day. From workshops designed to help companies grow, a lunch plenary that reflected on World Congress attendee’s contributions to the biobased economy over the past 15 years – while honoring two leaders in industrial biotechnology – and breakout sessions that featured unique topics such as whiskey, Tuesday’s programming was jam packed with unique programming for anyone in industrial biotechnology.

Biobased Materials Redesigning Consumer Markets and Fashion Trends

After reassuring the crowd that industrial biotechnology DOES have a role in fashion, Lane turned over the discussion to experts from several companies that are spearheading biobased threads.

Understanding consumers’ desires for sustainably manufactured products, Christophe Schilling with Genomatica, Inc. dived into his company’s efforts in using recyclable materials to build a circular economy. The segment of the population seeking biobased products is so significant, companies like AMSilk and Okabashi Brands have made it a central focus in their product lines.

“We built the entire brand to go after the demographic that is sustainability focused,” said Kimberly Falkenhayn, President of Okabashi Brands, a company that has been designing and manufacturing flip-flops for more than 30 years.

AMSilk’s Managing Director and CEO Jens Klein then went on to highlight his company’s work in developing BIOSteel, a strong, durable fiber derived from spider silk that has been used in the production of shoes for Adidas.

Industrial Biotech Thought Leaders: Winners of the George Washington Carver and Rosalind Franklin Awards

As attendees dined in the Grand Ballroom for lunch, the second plenary session of the day kicked off with Dr. Sang Yup Lee from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and Krysta Harden, vice president of external affairs and chief sustainability officer at Corteva Agriscience™, receiving the George Washington Carver and Rosalind Franklin Awards, respectively.

In accepting the George Washington Carver Award for Innovation in Industrial Biotechnology and Agricultue, Dr. Lee made sure to give credit to his team of researchers and students back in Korea, who played a critical role pioneering systems metabolic engineering. Dr. Lee left attendees with encouraging words on the overall impact teams like his can have on driving sustainability.

“The achievements our group made is very small,” he noted. “However, if we add up all the achievement you all have made, I can clearly say we are changing the world by providing sustainable chemicals and energy.”

Krysta Harden also had encouraging words for attendees when accepting the Rosalind Franklin Award for Leadership in Industrial Biotechnology and Agriculture by highlighting the progress that has taken place in the last decade in acknowledging the role of women in science – or any field. Harden noted work is still needed for women to receive the same credit as men and dedicated the Rosalind Franklin Award to all women making a difference in their fields.

“This is a great honor for all the women – whether in labs, classrooms, offices or boardrooms – who are making a difference for all of us,” said Harden.

Following the award presentation, award winners joined a group of panelists as they reflected on the past 15 years of industrial biotechnology and the evolution of the biobased economy and looked ahead to what the future may hold.

The Rosalind Franklin Award is sponsored by the Rosalind Franklin Society and the George Washington Carver Award is sponsored by the Iowa Biotechnology Association.

Breakout Sessions

Following the plenary lunch discussion, attendees explored both the exhibit floor and several breakout sessions covering feedstocks for biofuels, whiskey and much more.

At the session “Development of Biorefinery Projects to Convert Forestry Residues to Renewable Fuels,” Phillipp Stratmann spoke on behalf of Velocys, a UK-based renewable fuels company. Velocys is currently developing its first biorefinery using forestry residues as feedstock in Natchez, Mississippi.

“Our process uses 300,000 tons of non-recyclable waste that would otherwise go into landfills,” Stratmann stated. “And for every dollar of feedstock, we’re generating more than $8.00 in fuel revenue.”

Later during the “Nutrigenomics:  Bridging the Gap between Agriculture and Health” breakout session, Fayaz Khazi, CEO of Elo Life Systems talked about how his company is working in partnership with Cargill and other companies to enhance the nutritional profile of agriculture products.

By precisely targeting improvements to food crops, Elo is reducing saturated fat in canola oil, developing protein-rich chickpeas and producing low-calorie natural sweeteners, among other innovations. Representing a One Health mission, Khazi says “it’s really about improving health and wellness through food.”

And as the clock ticked closer and closer to reception time, attendees took in a discussion on the distilling of whiskey and the additional benefits that can be had through the proteins leftover in “pot ale,” the residue left behind in the distillation of whiskey or alcohol.

Workshops & Company and Technical Presentations

In between the breakfast and lunch plenaries, BIO World Congress attendees had the opportunity to attend four sponsored workshops, each outlining a program that could help attendee’s grow their companies.

BIO’s Managing Director of its Industrial and Environmental Section, Rina Singh, participated in a discussion on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) BioPreferred Program, whose goal is to increase the purchase and use of biobased products. Singh provided great context to attendees on the origins of the BioPreferred Program and BIO’s continued commitment and efforts to secure funding for the program through legislation.

Most notably, however, panelists dedicated significant time for attendees to provide feedback and ask questions to USDA representatives on improvements or considerations for the BioPreferred Program.

Of course, as is the case throughout the week, attendees looking to learn about the latest innovations in industrial biotechnology could visit company and technical presentations for an intimate experience with company representatives as they highlighted their new breakthroughs and answered questions.  

Cargill’s Vice President of Industrials Jill Zullo spoke to a packed room about the company’s successes in replacing petroleum-based products with sustainable bio-industrial systems made from renewable resources. As an example, Zullo pointed to its Cargill Beauty portfolio, a unique range of nature-derived, skin-friendly products with various personal care applications.

“We ask ‘what problems are consumers facing?’ and ‘how are those problems changing in today’s market place,” said Zullo. She went on to note Cargill’s innovations are really focused on “the new natural” to meet evolving consumer demands. But such innovations can’t be created in a vacuum she warns. “No one company can do this alone, so it’s really about partnerships.”

Attendees can look forward to another day of exciting programming tomorrow, Thursday, July 19, as the 2018 BIO World Congress comes to a close.

For those attending the 2018 BIO World Congress in Philadelphia, be sure to be on the lookout for the Iowa Biotechnology Association booth next to registration, where you can learn more about the 2019 BIO World Congress in Iowa. We look forward to seeing you in Des Moines!

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