New round of funding puts CBE spinoff company Pyran, Inc. on the path to full commercialization

// Chemical & Biological Engineering

Photo of Kevin Barnett

CBE PhD graduate and Pyran, Inc. co-founder Kevin Barnett.

Pyran, Inc., a Madison-based renewable chemical company with its roots in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, recently announced it has closed its latest round of funding, totaling nearly $4 million.

Investors include Arosa Capital as well as the venture arm of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation as well as several other new parties.

Pyran uses renewable agricultural feedstocks, such as corn cobs, to produce 1,5-pentanediol, a chemical used in everyday materials including paints, coatings, adhesives and many other products. The renewable version replaces its petroleum-based counterpart and costs about 40 percent less to produce than conventional 1,5-pentanediol at today’s market prices.

With the latest round of funding, Pyran is taking several major steps toward full commercialization. The company recently hired Dr. Mel Luetkens as CEO. Leutkens is a veteran executive in the bio-materials industry and has experience with new facility construction. That will aid Pyran as it begins construction on a manufacturing facility in late July, 2021. Over the next year, the company will begin large-scale toll manufacturing of 1,5-pentanediol in cooperation with RPD Technologies in Crosby, Texas.

The latest round of funding will also allow Pyran to apply for matching grants that could help the company scale up production. In the past, Pyran has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Energy.

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation has supported the company from its inception in 2018 and is excited about its potential. “WARF Ventures is pleased to support Pyran. WARF has long supported this technology through our WARF Accelerator,” says Mike Partsch, Chief Venture Officer with WARF Ventures. “The combination of a high-performing product and talented leadership makes the investment in this university-developed technology promising.”

Pyran’s connection to the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at UW-Madison is strong. The technology behind the process was developed at UW-Madison by Richard L. Antoine Professor George Huber and Kevin Barnett (PhDChE ’18), Pyran’s co-founders. CBE Professor William Banholzer also serves on the company’s board of directors. All of Pyran’s current employees, except for CEO Luetkens, are UW-Madison CBE graduates.

Author: Jason Daley