Chemicals company BASF is buying biotechnology company Verenium Corporation (NASDAQ:VRNM) in a bid to compete for industrial enzymes business currently dominated by Novozymes and Dupont.

BASF will pay $62 million cash to acquire San Diego-based Verenium. The $4 per share offer represents a nearly 60 percent premium over Verenium’s $2.51 closing price on Thursday. The deal has already been approved by the boards of directors of both companies. BASF said it expects to close the acquisition in the fourth quarter.

Germany-based BASF is a diversified chemical company whose portfolio encompasses chemicals, plastics and oil and gas. BASF’s plant science division, which conducts crop protection R&D, is headquartered in Research Triangle Park. The top industrial enzymes company is Denmark-based Novozymes, which operates its U.S. headquarters in Franklinton.

Enzymes are proteins that act as catalysts that enable or accelerate biological and chemical processes. Industrial enzymes are used to make a wide range of products including detergents, biofuels and agricultural products.

Verenium is the latest in a string of BASF moves this year to build its position in the industrial enzymes market. In May, the company announced three separate transactions in industrial enzymes. The company completed its acquisition of Henkel’s detergenets enzyme technology; entered into a research and license agreement with Florida biotechnology company Dyadic International; and signed an R&D collaboration agreement with German company Direvo Industrial Biotechnology to develop a highly efficient feed enzyme for animal nutrition.

“BASF, by buying Verenium is gaining market share, and more importantly access to a large and diverse enzyme library that we anticipate will expand and accelerate BASF’s product offerings,” Dyadic CEO Mark Emalfarb told Bloomberg News. Dyadic received a $6 million upfront payment from BASF as part its agreement with the chemicals company. Emalfarb said Dyadic’s so-called C1 enzyme technology platform and Verenium’s gene library “are highly complementary.”

While small in size, BASF’s acquisition is a sign that Chief Executive Officer Kurt Bock is committed to breaking the strangehold of the two leading rivals. Chemical companies use enzyme technology to produce ingredients and enhance the performance of products such as animal feeds and detergents. Verenium, which has collected microbes from diverse environments including volcanoes and rainforests, brings 10 industrial enzymes derived from bacteria and fungi.

Verenium’s enzymes are used in animal health and nutrition, grain processing, oil field services and industrial process such as pulp and paper textiles. The company currently markets nine commercial enzyme products and is conducting R&D on additional products. Verenium reported $18.2 million in 2012 net income on revenue of $57.1 million.

“We believe this deal should enhance the growth profile of BASF’s enzymes franchise, and herald a significant longer-term shift in the competitive landscape in industrial enzymes and agricultural enzymes for Novozymes and DuPont,’’ Laurence Alexander, an analyst at Jefferies, said in a note.

(Bloomberg News contributed to this report).