An official website of the United States government.

This is not the current EPA website. To navigate to the current EPA website, please go to This website is historical material reflecting the EPA website as it existed on January 19, 2021. This website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work. More information »

Green Chemistry Challenge: 2019 Small Business Award

Kalion, Inc. 


Microbially Produced High-Purity Glucaric Acid for Diverse Uses

Kalion, Inc., in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is being recognized for commercializing the first microbial fermentation process to produce glucaric acid, which offers the possibility of replacing environmentally polluting chemicals with a bio-degradable, non-toxic, sugar-derived product. Kalion is initially using it as a corrosion inhibitor for water treatment plants.

Summary of Technology:

The production of glucaric acid by fermentation has been long sought technology due to the harsh, toxic and non-selective nature of traditional chemical approaches. Glucaric acid as a product also offers the possibility of replacing environmentally polluting chemicals such as phosphate with a bio-degradable, non-toxic, sugar derived product. Glucaric acid’s potential was highlighted in a 2004 Department of Energy report where it was ranked among the Top Valued Added Chemicals from Biomass. Its potential has never been realized due to challenges in the safe and economical production of the chemical.

Kalion, Inc. is commercializing the first microbial fermentation process that produces glucaric acid. Kalion uses a novel biosynthetic pathway, expressed in E. coli, consisting of three enzymes from disparate organisms: myo-inositol-1-phosphate synthase (INO1), myo-inositol oxygenase (MIOX), and uronate dehydrogenase (udh). Expressing the MIOX and udh genes (but not INO1) allows for the conversion of myo-inositol to glucaric acid, thus by-passing central metabolism and resulting in yields approaching 100%. Expression of the complete pathway, to include INO1, allows for production of glucaric acid from glucose via the key cellular intermediate glucose-6-phosphate.

Kalion’s fermentation process solves the challenges of traditional chemical approaches and enables the production of high-purity, low-cost glucaric acid. End uses for glucaric acid now possible include water treatment, additives for polymer formulations, excipients for active pharmaceutical ingredients, chelants for the detergent industry, concrete admixtures, and corrosion inhibitors for road salt.

Kalion is initially focused on the use of glucaric acid as a corrosion inhibitor in water treatment applications, which would/will replace phosphate-based treatment programs. Phosphate point sources from water treatment waste water are well-known environmental pollutants for aquatic ecosystems. Glucaric acid, in contrast, degrades in a benign fashion and can be used effectively in water systems without restriction. At full-scale production, glucaric acid can serve as a complete substitute for phosphate in water treatment. This is one of several billion-dollar addressable markets for glucaric acid. Kalion’s fermentation-based approach enables glucaric acid, created through this green chemistry approach, to reach its full potential envisioned in the Top Value Added Chemicals Report.

Other resources:

Note: Disclaimer

Return to the list of all winners including the 2019 Award Winners.