What’s your flavour? Oxford spin-out targets $22bn fragrance mkt

Posted on 1 Oct 2013
Manufacturing in the laboratory with chemicals
Oxford Biotrans will produce natural flavours and fragrances in phase one of its chemicals industry strategy

A spinout from Isis Innovation, the technology transfer company of the University of Oxford, will commercialise new routes to high value chemicals using patented enzyme technology.

Oxford Biotrans will initially target bringing natural flavours and fragrances products to market.

The technology comes out of the university’s Chemistry Department. Dr Luet Wong, the inventor, said: “The technique makes use of enzymes to transform commonly available natural extracts into our target flavour and fragrance compounds.

“The process requires little energy and generates almost no waste in contrast to conventional chemical processes. The real benefit is that the end product is completely natural.”

The global market for flavours and fragrances reached $22 billion last year.

The first product that Oxford Biotrans will market is the grapefruit flavour and fragrance, nootkatone. Nootkatone extraction from grapefruit is a difficult process that results in limited supply of this natural product and thus high prices.

The company will use its enzymes to produce nootkatone from valencene, a widely available natural compound obtained from oranges. Jason King, CEO, said “Oxford Biotrans offers the market a natural product with high stability of supply, which marks it out against both synthetic and ex citrus alternatives”.

The technology has potential applications in a wide range of products.

A pipeline of flavour and fragrance products is under development and the Oxford Biotrans technology also has potential application in the production of pharmaceuticals, agrochemical and other speciality chemicals.

Will Barton, chairman of Oxford Biotrans and head of manufacturing at the Technology Strategy Board, said: “The market for products produced through industrial biotechnology has been projected to grow significantly, with a £12bn opportunity identified for the UK by 2025 from a current baseline of less than £2bn.

With 15-years of R&D experience in enzyme research and a strong management team, we are in a position to lead innovations in this field.”

Tom Hockaday, managing director of Isis Innovation, said: “Oxford Biotrans comes out of the Department of Chemistry which has an impressive record of successful spinouts. Biotrans is set to follow on that path and Isis Innovation is proud to be a part of it.”.