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US synthetic biotechnology ingredients firm Amyris says it has started industrial scale production of 13 molecules, including squalene, at its plant in Brazil.

Squalene is a natural oil typically sourced from deep-sea shark livers and used as an ingredient in skincare products as well as in adjuvants to improve the efficacy of vaccines.

Adjuvants are added to vaccines to boost immune system response and shark-based squalene is used in influenza vaccines as well as in a number of COVID-19 vaccines.

Amyris said it had developed a process to produce sugarcane-derived squalene as an alternative to non-sustainable shark-derived squalene.

Amyris said the Barra Bonita facility included five self-contained lines (or mini factories) for diverse molecule production.

“The new site will allow us to produce and finish products… within the same location, which greatly cuts down our carbon footprint associated with shipping ingredients across the world during the production process,” Amyris CEO Eduardo Alvarez said. “The plant greatly reduces our production timelines, as we now have full control over our supply chains... We anticipate faster times to market and reduced complications when moving from pilot to manufacturing scale. This has huge potential for the scale and speed at which we manufacture our existing products.”

The company said the plant’s location, next to the Raízen sugar mill ensured continuity of sustainable feedstock supply.

Amyris’ products include ingredients for cosmetics, flavours and fragrances.

According to an investigation by French marine conservation charity Bloom, the global demand for shark liver oil in 2012 was estimated at 2,200 tonnes. Of this, 90% made its way into cosmetic products, 9% to nutraceuticals and 1% into pharmaceuticals, veterinary medicines and other unknown products. Bloom said 3,000 sharks were needed to produce one tonne of squalene.