Daniel Grushkin

Breaking the mold (Nature Biotech)

Take it as a metaphor for the bioplastics industry as a whole, or as another example of a fledgling industry stuttering toward success. In October of last year, Cambridge, Massachusetts, biotech Metabolix produced a new grade of its renewable, bacterially produced plastic, one that could come in contact with food. The announcement promised to open a new market for its biodegradable polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), branded as Mirel. But the news was undercut a month later when the commercial phase of production at its plant in Clinton, Iowa, stalled for another three months and the company’s stock price dropped by 20%.