Leading Edge Science in Palo Alto, CA
Palo Alto is a foundation lab for DuPont in industrial biotechnology and was a central site for Genencor, one of the founders of industrial biotechnology. Following the acquisition of Danisco in 2011, Genencor became DuPont Industrial Biosciences, and today Palo Alto is one of eight R&D sites for the company’s Industrial Biosciences business.
Research Today in Palo Alto
Located in the heart of Silicon Valley and Biotech Bay, Palo Alto is home to senior executives, business and regulatory leaders, intellectual property team members, as well as nearly 200 scientists and engineers doing enzyme research in biochemistry, molecular biology, protein chemistry and chemical engineering. It is a central site for protein engineering enzyme production systems and pathway engineering for chemicals, and home to applications teams in grain processing, biomass conversion, fabric and household care and textiles processing.
Research on a couple of the world’s current and future innovations is taking place in Palo Alto, including:
- BioIsoprene™, a research collaboration with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. to develop and produce non-petroleum, biobased tires. The platform has other industrial applications, including adhesives, surgical gloves and specialty elastomers.
- Accellerase®, an award-winning suite of enzyme products for the production of cellulosic ethanol that’s derived from renewable, nonfood biomass such as switchgrass, corn stover and wheat straw.
Once the site for Kodak’s film processing, Palo Alto was established in 1996 and in the same year won “Lab of the Year” for design and function, an award presented by R&D Magazine.
Palo Alto’s architecture combines DuPont’s business strategy of collaboration and Genencor’s heritage of ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit. The 150,000-square-foot building features a light and airy central corridor that was designed by scientists to promote discussion and conversation – emphasizing teamwork instead of isolated offices and also a window-lined fermentation pilot plant, which is considered the building’s gem.
For Mike Arbige, technology leader for DuPont Industrial Biosciences and one of Genencor’s first employees, location is a key part of the company’s success. “Innovation – that’s what Silicon Valley is all about,” Arbige said. “We have access to universities and other biotech companies. This is a region with a philosophy of taking risks, and it breeds the right people for this exciting endeavor.”