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MBLX > SEC Filings for MBLX > Form 10-K on 28-Mar-2013All Recent SEC Filings

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Form 10-K for METABOLIX, INC.


Annual Report


The following discussion and analysis should be read in conjunction with the Consolidated Financial Statements and Notes thereto included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

All dollar amounts are stated in thousands.


Metabolix is an innovation-driven bioscience company focused on delivering sustainable solutions to the plastics, chemicals and energy industries. We have core capabilities in microbial genetics, fermentation process engineering, chemical engineering, polymer science, plant genetics and botanical science, and we have assembled these capabilities in a way that has allowed us to integrate our biotechnology research with real world chemical engineering and industrial practice. In addition, we have created an extensive intellectual property portfolio to protect our innovations and, together with our technology, to serve as a valuable foundation for future industry collaborations.

The markets for petroleum-based plastics, chemicals and fuels are among the largest in the global economy. Issues associated with the prolonged use of petroleum-based products include plastic waste management and pollution, limited fossil fuel availability and price volatility, and global warming and climate change. We believe that a substantial global market opportunity exists to develop and commercialize our technology to produce sustainable, renewable alternatives to petroleum-based products including advanced biopolymers, biobased industrial chemicals and bioenergy.

Metabolix was formed to leverage the ability of natural systems to produce complex biopolymers from renewable resources. We have focused on a family of biopolymers found in nature called polyhydroxyalkanoates, or ("PHAs"), which occur naturally in living organisms and are chemically similar to polyesters. We have demonstrated the production of PHAs at the industrial scale to produce PHA biopolymers and biobased industrial chemicals, as well as production of PHB, a subclass of PHA biopolymer, in agriculturally significant crop plants.

From 2004 through 2011, we developed and began commercialization of our PHA biopolymers through a technology alliance and subsequent commercial alliance with a wholly-owned subsidiary of Archer Daniels Midland Company ("ADM"), one of the largest agricultural processors in the world. Under the commercial alliance, ADM was responsible for resin manufacturing, and Metabolix was primarily responsible for product development, compounding, marketing and sales. Through this alliance, the companies established a joint venture company, Telles, LLC ("Telles"), to commercialize PHA biopolymer products. ADM completed construction of the initial phase of its commercial manufacturing facility, which began production of biopolymers for the joint venture in 2010. Telles conducted significant product and commercial development activities with potential customers,

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marketed and sold product to customers under the tradenames Mirel™ and Mvera™, and developed a network of business partners and distributors before ADM terminated the commercial alliance early in 2012.

In 2012, our objective was to advance business discussions with third parties with the goal of establishing a new commercial model for our PHA biopolymers, to work closely with our core customers to provide product from existing inventory during the transition phase and ensure ongoing development of PHA biopolymer products, to narrow our market development focus to high value market segments as the foundation to successfully build the business, and to establish a new manufacturing and supply chain properly sized to our business.

After termination of the Telles joint venture, we retained significant rights and assets associated with the PHA biopolymers business consistent with our intent to launch the business using a new commercial model, continuing business operations, marketing biopolymer products, and identifying alternate manufacturing capability. We hold exclusive rights to the Metabolix technology and intellectual property used in the joint venture. We acquired all of Telles's product inventory and compounding raw materials totaling more than 5 million pounds, all product certifications and all product trademarks including MirelTM and MveraTM, and we retained all co-funded pilot plant equipment in locations outside of the Commercial Manufacturing Facility in Clinton, Iowa. We have no obligations under the ledger account totaling $433 million which was funded by ADM to construct the Commercial Manufacturing Facility and to provide working capital to Telles.

Through Telles, we learned extremely valuable information about how customers and brand owners are envisioning the use of PHA biopolymers in their products. Based on these interactions, we remain confident that Metabolix biopolymers provide an important solution to those wishing to reduce dependence on petroleum, reduce plastic waste in the environment, and utilize new solutions to meet sustainable packaging goals. We have demonstrated that our biopolymers, marketed under the Mirel and Mvera brands, share the physical properties of petroleum-based resins for performance and durability and can be processed using existing equipment and post-processing techniques. The difference is that Metabolix biopolymers display unique biodegradability properties. Mirel is certified to biodegrade in soil and water environments, as well as home composting and industrial composting facilities (in areas where such facilities are available). Mvera is a certified compostable film grade biopolymer intended for industrial composting.

After termination of the ADM commercial alliance in early 2012, we restructured the biopolymers business retaining a core team in our biopolymers group to provide continuity with technology, manufacturing process, and markets. During 2012, we established Metabolix GmbH, a subsidiary located in Cologne, Germany to serve as a focal point for our commercial activities in Europe. This cost effective location is intended to enable us to directly access the European market, which is the largest for bioplastics. We also took steps toward establishing a new commercial model for our PHA biopolymers business. We worked closely with our core customers to supply product from existing inventory as a bridge to new supply. We evaluated the potential applications for our biopolymer products and narrowed our market development focus to three high value market segments (i) film and bag applications, (ii) performance additives, and
(iii) functional biodegradation. In March 2012, we began directly booking product sales and shipping product from inventory to our customers. During the second half of the year, we developed, sampled and launched two new products:
Mvera B5008, a compostable film grade, and I6001, a polymeric modifier for polyvinyl chloride ("PVC"). In addition, we signed an agreement for demonstration production with Antibioticos SA, a toll manufacturer, based in Leon, Spain.

During 2013, we expect to continue to use existing inventory to continue to develop the market and to supply new and existing customers. We continue to explore alternative options to establish a new biopolymer manufacturing and supply chain properly sized to our business.

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For our second platform, we are developing C4 and C3 chemicals from biobased sources, not the fossil fuels that are currently used to produce most industrial chemicals today. Our process for creating biobased industrial C4 and C3 chemicals involves engineering metabolic pathways into microbes that, in a fermentation process, produce specific PHA structures that serve as precursors for the chemicals. Through our PHA technology, we are able to control the microbe biology to achieve high concentrations of specific, naturally-occurring PHA that accumulate inside cells as they metabolize sugars. This intracellular accumulation of the biopolymers inside the microbes is a unique and differentiating aspect of our technology. When the fermentation is completed, we use a novel internally developed recovery process known as "FAST" (fast-acting, selective thermolysis) that converts the biopolymer to the target chemical using heat.

During 2009, we completed all work under our U.S. Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology grant, a $2 million grant aimed at producing C4 chemicals from renewable sources. We were able to achieve all of the technical milestones outlined in this grant. In 2010, we continued to scale up our C4 chemicals technology and continued efforts on chemical recovery and purification. We made progress toward production of biobased gamma-butyrolactone ("GBL") samples for shipment to potential customers and we expanded exploratory partnership discussions.

In 2011, we entered into a joint development agreement with CJ CheilJedang ("CJ") to continue to advance and refine our production technology and assess investment options for the commercialization of biobased C4 chemicals via fermentation. During this agreement, we developed a detailed market and economic analysis examining all aspects of an investment to commercialize biobased C4 chemicals.

In the C4 program, we have produced GBL at industrial scale and demonstrated a chemical profile that meets or exceeds the existing industrial specifications. In 2012, we completed the preliminary design for a commercial scale plant to enable production of biobased GBL and, through an established conversion process, butanediol ("BDO"). This plan, which could be implemented under a potential future collaboration, includes specifications for all of the components of our fermentation and recovery process. In conjunction with our technical progress, we expect to continue discussions with industry leaders with the goal of forming the industry alliances necessary to successfully bring our biobased C4 industrial chemicals, including GBL and BDO, into commercial production.

We believe that developing and commercializing biobased C3 chemicals could represent another attractive market for our technology. In 2011, we undertook a market analysis of the global market for acrylic acid, a C3 chemical, to assess the market participants, renewable technology competition, economics, intellectual property status, and end markets.

In 2012, we continued scale up of fermentation and optimization of microbial strains to produce biobased C3 chemicals. We also successfully scaled-up recovery of acrylic acid from dried biomass using the "FAST" process in our Cambridge laboratory. We also provided sample quantities of dried biomass for conversion to biobased acrylic acid for customer evaluation. We believe that strategic alliances will be required to commercialize C3 chemicals, and in 2013, we expect to continue to engage in partnership discussions.

In our third technology platform, we are harnessing the renewable nature of plants to make bioplastics, renewable chemicals and bioenergy from crops. The focal point of our plant technology efforts is around polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), the simplest member of the broad polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) family of biopolymers. While applications for PHAs have focused mainly on their use as biodegradable bioplastics, these polymers have a number of other unique features that will allow their use in other applications, such as the production of chemical intermediates and their use as value-added animal feeds. We are creating proprietary systems to produce PHB in high quantity in the leaves of biomass crops or seeds of oilseed crops for these multiple applications.

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Our work in crops highlights our leading edge capabilities and research targeting multi-gene expression and transformation of plants. Researchers at Metabolix have designed novel, multi-gene expression systems to increase production of PHB in plant tissue. The science behind this shift in metabolism is complex since the goal is to significantly increase production of PHB to be viable at industrial scale without impairing the ability of the plant to thrive in its natural environment. Using tobacco as a demonstration system for proof of concept, our researchers have published results demonstrating that production of high levels of PHB, up to 18% in leaves and 9% in the biomass of the entire tobacco plant, can be achieved. In addition to tobacco, we are developing different genetic engineering systems for different plant crops including switchgrass, oilseeds and sugarcane.

In 2011, Metabolix was awarded a $6 million grant by the U.S. Department of Energy ("DOE") to engineer switchgrass producing 10 percent PHB, by weight, in the whole plant and to develop methods to thermally convert the PHB-containing biomass to crotonic acid and a higher density residual biomass fraction for production of bioenergy. Crotonic acid is a platform chemical that can be readily converted through simple, known chemical conversion steps to a range of commodity chemical intermediates including propylene, butanol and maleic anhydride.

In 2012, Metabolix was awarded three new grants for leading-edge crop research targeting multi-gene expression and transformation of plants including important biofuel and food crops. Funding from these three grants is expected to total approximately $1.0 million and will run through 2014.

In 2013, we expect to continue to advance research under our grants, focused on increasing PHB production in switchgrass and developing a thermal conversion process for crotonic acid. We may also seek to establish alliances with partners to commercially exploit this platform. We are in the process of capturing intellectual property gained in our work in crops and will be evaluating the possibilities of monetizing that intellectual property.

We are developing an extensive portfolio of intellectual property covering our inventions in crop-based technology and have been awarded more than 30 patents in this area to date. In addition, Metabolix researchers and academic collaborators have published our research results in peer reviewed scientific journals.

We have incurred significant losses since our inception. As of December 31, 2012, our accumulated deficit from inception to date was $242,032 and total stockholders' equity was $47,340. We recognized net income of $3,630 in 2012, and net losses of $38,785 and $38,803 in 2011, and 2010, respectively.

Collaborative Arrangements

We are not currently participating in any collaborative arrangements. Our historical strategy for collaborative arrangements has been to retain substantial participation in the future economic value of our technology while receiving current cash payments to offset research and development costs and working capital needs. By their nature, our collaborative agreements have been complex, containing multiple elements covering a variety of present and future activities.

ADM Collaboration

From 2004 through 2011, we developed and began commercialization of our PHA biopolymers through a technology alliance and subsequent commercial alliance with ADM Polymer Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of ADM, one of the largest agricultural processors in the world. The Commercial Alliance Agreement between Metabolix and ADM Polymer specified the terms and structure of the alliance. The agreement governed the activities and obligations of the parties to commercialize PHA biopolymers, which have been marketed under the brand names Mirel™ and Mvera™. These activities included the establishment of a joint venture company, Telles, LLC ("Telles"), to market and sell PHA biopolymers, the construction of a manufacturing facility capable of producing

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110 million pounds of material annually (the "Commercial Manufacturing Facility"), the licensing of technology to Telles and to ADM, and the conducting of various research, development, manufacturing, sales and marketing, compounding and administrative services by the parties.

Telles was formed to: (i) serve as the commercial entity to establish and develop the commercial market for PHA biopolymers, and conduct the marketing and sales in accordance with the goals of the commercial alliance, (ii) assist in the coordination and integration of the manufacturing, compounding and marketing activities, and (iii) administer and account for financial matters on behalf of the parties. Metabolix and ADM each had a 50 percent ownership and voting interest in Telles.

Under the Commercial Alliance Agreement ADM was permitted, under limited circumstances, to terminate the alliance if a change in circumstances that was not reasonably within the control of ADM made the anticipated financial return from the project inadequate or too uncertain. The agreement provided that, upon termination by ADM due to a change in circumstances, Metabolix would be permitted to continue to produce and sell PHA biopolymers, and ADM would be required to perform manufacturing services for the Company for a period of time following the termination (subject to certain payment obligations to ADM). On January 9, 2012, ADM notified us that it was terminating the commercial alliance effective February 8, 2012. ADM had undertaken a strategic review of its business investments and activities and made the decision to focus resources outside of Telles. As the basis for the decision, ADM indicated to us that the projected financial returns from the alliance were too uncertain.

The Commercial Alliance Agreement with ADM limited the rights of both ADM and Metabolix to work with other parties or alone in developing or commercializing certain PHAs produced through fermentation. These exclusivity obligations ended upon termination of the alliance. Also, upon termination of the alliance, Metabolix intellectual property licenses to ADM Polymer and Telles ended, with Metabolix retaining all rights to its intellectual property. ADM retained its Commercial Manufacturing Facility located in Clinton, Iowa, previously used to produce PHA biopolymers for Telles.

Under the Technology Alliance and Option Agreement and Commercial Alliance Agreement, various payments were made to Metabolix by ADM as shown in the table below. All of these payments were recorded as deferred revenue on the Company's balance sheet and were expected to be recognized on a straight line basis over a period of approximately ten years in which Metabolix would fulfill its contractual obligations during the Commercial Phase of the Commercial Alliance Agreement.

Upfront payment                                                           $  3,000
Milestone payments                                                           2,000
Support payments                                                            22,050
Cost sharing payments for pre-commercial manufacturing plant
construction and operations                                                 11,835

Total                                                                     $ 38,885

The Company had no further performance obligations in connection with the commercial alliance after its termination, and as a result, the entire $38,885 of deferred revenue was recognized by the Company during its fiscal quarter ended March 31, 2012.

After termination of the Commercial Alliance Agreement, the parties entered into a Settlement Agreement in which the parties agreed to specific terms related to the winding up and dissolution of Telles. Under this Settlement Agreement, we purchased certain assets of the joint venture for $2,982 including Telles's entire inventory, exclusive and perpetual rights to all of Telles's trademarks, and all product registrations, certifications and approvals for Telles's PHA biopolymers. Pursuant to the Settlement Agreement, ADM relinquished any claims with respect to certain co-funded equipment

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previously acquired by Metabolix and situated at locations other than the Clinton, Iowa Commercial Manufacturing Facility, and Metabolix and Telles waived any rights to post-termination manufacturing and fermentation services under the Commercial Alliance Agreement.

Pursuant to the Settlement Agreement, Telles paid to ADM an amount equal to the aggregate cash balances of Telles totaling $3,778 on the date of the Settlement Agreement, minus $100 retained by Telles to settle any remaining trade obligations. The remaining trade obligations of Telles at the date of execution of the Settlement Agreement did not exceed $100. In the event that ADM is required to repay to Telles or to pay to any creditor of Telles any amounts included in the $2,982 purchase price or the $3,678 distributed to ADM by Telles pursuant to the Settlement Agreement, Metabolix is obligated to reimburse ADM in an amount equal to 50% of such payments, provided that in no event would the amount to be so paid by Metabolix exceed the total of the $2,982 purchase price and the $3,678 Telles cash required to be so repaid or reimbursed by ADM. In February 2013, ADM notified us that Telles had been formally dissolved and that no third party creditor trade obligations had been paid. As a result, we believe that we are no longer contingently liable for any third party obligations stemming from our former ADM collaboration.

Government Grants

As of December 31, 2012, expected gross proceeds of $5,084 remain to be received under our U.S. and Canadian government grants, which include amounts for reimbursement to our subcontractors, as well as reimbursement for our employees' time, benefits and other expenses related to performance under the grants.

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The status of our United States and Canadian government grants is as follows:

                                                       Total           Remaining
                                                     received           amount
                                       Total          through       available as of
                        Funding      Government    December 31,      December 31,      Contract/Grant
Program Title           Agency         Funds           2012              2012            Expiration
Renewable Enhanced
Feedstocks For
Advanced Biofuels     Department
And Bioproducts       of Energy      $     6,000    $      1,994     $         4,006   June 2014
Subcontract from
University of
California (Los
Angeles) project
funded by ARPA-E
entitled "Plants
Engineered to
Replace Oil: Energy   Department
Plant Design"         of Energy              566               -                 566   September 2014
Capacity Building
for                   National
Commercial-Scale      Research
PHB Camelina          Council
Development           Canada                 261              10                 251   March 2014
Subcontract from
University of
(Amherst) project
funded by ARPA-E
"Development of a
Dedicated High
Value Biofuels        Department
Crop"                 of Energy              259             114                 145   June 2013
Technologies For      Canadian
Engineering Of        Ministry of
Camelina              Agriculture            205             184                  21   February 2013
Blow Molded           Department
Bioproducts From      of
Renewable Plastics    Agriculture            349             349                   -   August 2012
Development of a
Sustainable Value     National
Added Fish Feed       Research
Using PHB Producing   Council
Camelina              Canada                  95               -                  95   March 2014

Total                                $     7,735    $      2,651     $         5,084

Critical Accounting Estimates and Judgments

Our consolidated financial statements are prepared in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America. The preparation of these consolidated financial statements requires us to make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets, liabilities, revenue, costs and expenses, and related disclosures. We evaluate our estimates and assumptions on an ongoing basis. Our actual results may differ from these estimates.

We believe that of our significant accounting policies, which are described in Note 2 to our consolidated financial statements, the accounting policies described below involve a greater degree of judgment and complexity. Accordingly, we believe that the accounting policies described below are the most critical to aid in fully understanding and evaluating our consolidated financial condition and results of operations.

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Revenue Recognition

During March 2012, we initiated biopolymer product sales to customers for the first time. Our policy is to recognize revenue when evidence of an arrangement exists, title has passed or services have been rendered, the selling price is fixed or determinable and collectability is reasonably assured. Revenue from product sales to customers is recognized when all elements of the sale have been delivered. During the six months ended June 30, 2012, we did not provide for rights of return to customers on product sales, except for situations where the product did not meet the technical specifications. We modified our product return policy prospectively during the quarter ending September 30, 2012 to allow discretion in accepting returns during a period of sixty days after product delivery. Until sufficient experience is developed on which to base an estimate of product returns, we defer recognition of product revenue and related costs until the later of (i) the end of the sixty day period or (ii) when the customer payment has been received.

We recognize government grants received as revenue as the grants are central to the Company's ongoing operations. Revenue is earned as research expenses related to the grants are incurred. Funds received from government grants in advance of work being performed are recorded as deferred revenue until earned. For revenue previously received under our arrangements with ADM, we recognized revenue in accordance with the accounting guidance on revenue recognition and revenue arrangements with multiple deliverables.

Our discontinued arrangement with ADM contained multiple elements including obligations for us to provide future compounding services, sales and marketing services, and certain research and development activities. We determined that these elements could not be separated and accounted for individually as separate units of accounting. Therefore payments received from ADM through December 31, 2011 were classified as deferred revenue at the respective balance sheet dates. We expected that this deferred revenue would begin to be recognized upon achievement of the contractual First Commercial Sale and all amounts would be recognized on a straight line basis over the estimated period, of approximately ten years, in which our obligations would be fulfilled in accordance with the term of the Commercial Alliance Agreement. Effective with the termination of the alliance in February of 2012 we recognized all of the deferred revenue related to the alliance agreements with ADM in the first quarter of 2012.

Fees to license the use of our proprietary and licensed technologies are recognized only after both the license period has commenced and the licensed . . .

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