When Dr Isao Noda retired from Proctor & Gamble after a long and distinguished career there, Meredian, the Georgia-based manufacturer of PHAs, moved quickly. The company had purchased the intellectual property that forms the basis of its bioplastic technology from Procter & Gamble in 2007 and was well aware of Noda's pioneering work in the field of a specific type of PHAs known as medium-chain-length polyhydroxylalkanoates. And subsequently snapped him up, naming him Director of Innovative Solutions in February of last year.
That explains why he was manning the Meredian stand at the European Bioplastics conference in Berlin in December last year, and his enthusiasm when talking about PHAs. Meredian produces its PHA via fermentation, using plant-based fatty acids derived from canola as feedstock. Interestingly, the bacteria used by Meredian in its fermentation production systems are not genetically modified, but occur naturally in the soil.
"It's a true case of invention driven innovation," Noda said. Serendipity had nothing to do with it. "I knew the pathway was there. I know a little bit about chemistry (Dr. Noda holds a Ph.D in chemical engineering from Columbia), and I knew it had to be there. The trick was finding it."