September 8, 2017

From Methane to Bioplastics: The Mango Materials Story

Mango Materials

Dr. Molly Morse is an innovator, inventor and entrepreneur who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the CEO and co-founder of Mango Materials, a startup company that uses methane-fed bacteria to produce an affordable biodegradable polymer. She launched the company based off of intellectual property from her Ph.D. research and currently works with long-time and new colleagues in the quest to locally manufacture environmentally friendly plastics.

With methane as their feedstock, they hope to drop the price of biopolymers at commercial scale – to be competitive with traditional plastics – while reducing methane emissions in both urban and rural locations, and turning carbon into a high-value material.

The company has been selected for a Phase II STTR award from NASA to explore the production of biopolymers in a microgravity environment. This could enable the production of biopolymer on Earth and also non-Earth environments, thus creating a closed-loop system for producing biopolymer products on-demand in outer space.

Molly will be speaking at SynBioBeta SF 2017 on October 4th, check out our brief interview with her:

Why are biopolymers such an exciting field to be part of at the moment?

We are seeing a lot of traction in the biopolymers area as many brands are now taking a hard look at their impact on the environment. More opportunities exist for biopolymers as alternatives to traditional materials than ever before. Being right in the middle of this movement is extremely exciting and rewarding.

Can you tell us a little about Mango Materials’ technology to produce biodegradable polymers?

Mango Materials uses waste methane gas feed to naturally occurring microorganisms to produce a biodegradable polymer. Utilizing the gas from a San Francisco-Bay Area wastewater treatment plant, Mango Materials currently produces PHAs which can be converted into various plastic-substitute goods. PHAs can biodegrade in many different environments, including those where no oxygen is present, producing methane, and closing loop to create more polymer from that methane.

What inspires you in your current role as CEO of Mango Materials?

Since I was in 2nd grade, plastics and their end of life fascinated me. Being able to live out this dream by leading Mango Materials is what wakes me up every morning. The team is not only talking about changing the world, we are actually working hard everyday to achieve that goal.

Where do you see the biggest opportunities for biobased product use in the US?

Current plastics are found in huge volumes and are currently really cheap. The biggest opportunity for biobased products is being able to scale technologies that compete with these traditional materials. There are many excellent companies out there working on biobased products and together we can all flip the script on polymers and materials.

What challenges persist in your field, and what progress has your team – or other peers – made in overcoming them?

Scaling any biological technology can be challenging and capital intensive. We have been very honored to receive government grants, win business plan competition, and have leveraged some beneficial partnerships to get to our current scale successfully. We have also seen other successes in scaling various biobased technologies, which will only add to the entire industry.

What are the upcoming milestones and long-term priorities for your company?

We have a new application project we are very excited about! Details are confidential right now, but may be public in time for the conference. We are also in the process of building our demonstration scale facility, which will significantly increase our production volumes.

What are you most looking forward to at SynBioBeta SF 2017?

Making new connections and catching up with old ones!

Molly Morse will be speaking in the Lightning Talks session at SynBioBeta SF 2017 on October 4th, don’t miss out, register today.

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