Decarbonizing the Chemical Industry with Solugen CEO Gaurab Chakrabarti

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Decarbonizing the Chemical Industry with Solugen CEO Gaurab Chakrabarti

Host Victoria Meyer engages in an insightful conversation with Gaurab Chakrabarti, the co-founder and CEO of Solugen, about the pressing need for decarbonization in the chemical industry. A physician-turned-entrepreneur, Gaurab shares invaluable insights from Solugen’s journey, shining a light on strategies, challenges, and successes in creating sustainable chemical solutions.

The Path to Decarbonization

Victoria and Gaurab delve into the critical strategies for reducing carbon intensity within the chemical industry. A significant takeaway is the importance of using circular feedstocks and efficient processes. Gaurab emphasizes local supply chains as a cornerstone for lowering carbon emissions, underscoring the benefits of proximity to both customers and feedstock. “There’s a transformative power in being close to your resources and clientele,” Gaurab asserts. He and his team at Solugen are resolute about this, and Victoria concurs, noting how reducing logistics emissions can significantly cut the environmental footprint.

Solugen’s Innovative Approach

Solugen’s journey is nothing short of inspiring. Founded by Gaurab and his best friend Sean Hunt, the company emerged from Gaurab’s initial endeavor to study pancreatic cancer, leveraging enzymes from cancer biology as catalysts in chemical reactions. This unique approach is propelling Solugen towards decarbonizing the chemical industry. Gaurab highlights Solugen’s flagship products—hydrogen peroxide, gluconic acid, and glucaric acid—but the company’s entire ethos revolves around performance over sheer volume. They have championed the idea of improving yield while minimizing carbon impact, transforming how chemical processes are perceived and executed.

Strategic Commercialization

From selling peroxide to niche customers in float spas to scaling up to target larger molecules like plastics, Solugen has grown exponentially. By 2018, Solugen had captured 80% of the market share, achieving profitability and proving their model’s viability. Today, the company boasts facilities in Houston, West Texas, and Minnesota, focusing primarily on water treatment products for wastewater, energy, construction, and produced water sectors. Gaurab elaborates on their commercialization strategy, which involves solving local pain points efficiently and expanding while consistently delighting their customer base.

Navigating Challenges

Victoria and Gaurab touch on the conventional beliefs within the chemical industry—that bigger and more efficient assets equate to better outcomes. Gaurab respectfully challenges this notion, advocating for scalable, cost-effective solutions that don’t compromise performance. Additionally, Gaurab’s insights into leadership are invaluable, particularly his evolution from a clinical mindset to an entrepreneurial one. He shares how grounding his leadership in continuous learning, mentorship, and a customer-focused approach has been pivotal for Solugen’s success.

An Eye on the Future

With significant venture capital investment and a $2 billion valuation, Solugen is poised for remarkable growth. The recent Department of Energy loan for their Marshall facility underscores their potential for scalability and impact. As the episode concludes, Victoria asks Gaurab for advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. Gaurab offers wisdom from his journey, stressing the importance of addressing meaningful problems and being prepared for the long haul. His candid admission—that he might not have embarked on this path knowing it would be a decade-long commitment but is ultimately grateful for the journey—resonates deeply.

— Stay connected with The Chemical Show® for more inspiring stories and cutting-edge discussions on the future of the chemical industry.

 


About Gaurab Chakrabarti

Gaurab is the co-founder and CEO of Solugen. As a physician-scientist, Gaurab took an oath to first do no harm—and for him, that goes beyond patients or medicine. So in 2016, he started Solugen to decarbonize the chemicals industry, one of the most damaging for people and the Earth. Gaurab believes in using biology in unconventional ways to solve incredibly complex problems and is building a world-class team to join him on the journey. Gaurab studied computational neuroscience as an undergraduate at Brown University and received his MD & PhD in cancer biology and enzymology at the University of Texas. He is an author or co-author on more than 20 peer-reviewed publications and patents, and he is a Forbes 30 Under 30 in Industry and Manufacturing.