Codexis, Shell agreement intact, renewal negotiations ongoing

By Holly Jessen | June 13, 2012

A few news reports about the termination of a three-way research agreement between Shell, Iogen Energy Corp. and Codexis Inc. made a mountain out of a molehill, said Wes Bolsen, vice president and chief marketing officer. It was really just a housekeeping item. “It didn’t affect at all the two-way agreement between Shell and Codexis,” he added.

The Shell, Iogen and Codexis research agreement is terminated effective June 30, according to a two-paragraph notice at the end of a document filed June 7 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The move follows the April 30 announcement from Shell and Iogen that 150 employees were laid off at Iogen’s headquarters and a Shell-led proposed cellulosic ethanol project was scrapped. Codexis had been collaborating with Shell and Iogen on the conversion of cellulosic biomass to ethanol but was not receiving any research funding under this agreement, Bolsen said.

Codexis’ research agreement with Shell, on the other hand, will remain in effect through Oct. 31 as planned. As part of that, Shell is providing funding for 116 employees to further Codexis’ cellulosic enzyme research. The two companies are currently in negotiations, deciding the future of that agreement. “We’re trying to decide how many researchers we need to continue, how much Shell is going to fund and what’s going to happen,” Bolsen said. “There’s no reason to believe—the great work that we have done—that we won’t want to continue that.”

Codexis is also still working with Raizen Energia S.A., the company’s largest shareholder, on sugarcane ethanol in Brazil. Separate from its global work on second- generation biofuels, Codexis is collaborating with Razien, a joint venture between Shell and Cosan S.A. Indústria e Comércio, the world’s largest sugarcane ethanol producer, on enzymes for first-generation sugarcane ethanol. “We’re very fortunate in that sense, having a very stable, very large sugar producer who also has massive access to sugarcane bagasse,” Bolsen said, adding that it also means Codexis is well-positioned to research enzymes for second-generation biofuels in Brazil. 

Codexis also recently announced the appointment of John Nicols as president and CEO of the company. Nicols, previously the senior vice president of strategic development and catalysts at Albermarle Corp., a specialty chemicals company, will begin in his new role June 13.