VTT Introduces Gasifier Test Plant for Development of Second-Generation Biofuels
Mitsubishi Accelerates Electric Vehicle Work, Announces New Research Vehicle and Testing Partners

Synthetic Biology Company Raises $20 Million; New Focus on Biofuels

Amyris Biotechnologies, Inc., a privately-held company applying advances in synthetic biology to produce high-value pharmaceuticals, fine chemicals and biofuels, has raised $20 million in a first round of venture funding.

The Series A financing was led by Khosla Ventures, with additional participation from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), and Texas Pacific Group Ventures (TPGV). The company also announced the appointment of John G. Melo, previously president of US Fuels Operations for BP, as CEO. Also joining the Amyris board at this time are Samir Kaul, general partner, Khosla Ventures; John Doerr, general partner, KPCB; and Geoff Duyk, managing director, TPGV.

Amyris Biotechnologies uses synthetic biology techniques to create new metabolic pathways in industrial microbes to produce novel or rare chemicals. Amyris’ primary project to date has focused on the use of synthetic biology to address supply and cost constraints limiting the use of the anti-malarial drug artemisinin. With the new funding (and CEO), Amyris will work on producing biofuel molecules—ethanol, butanol, or other hydrocarbons.

Greentech could be the largest economic opportunity of the 21st Century. Novel renewable energy sources will be key. John Melo is the perfect CEO to help Amyris innovate and lead in renewable fuels. At BP, he ran a multi-billion fuel operation with early commercial success with ethanol. John’s insights, skills, and relationships are highly complementary to the deep technical talent of the Amyris founders.

—John Doerr, KPCB

These new resources will enable the company to expand its capabilities to address major global health and energy challenges, thereby helping to fulfill the promise of synthetic biology. In addition to its ongoing focus on creating a low-cost malaria drug, Amyris will add a new program aimed at renewably producing second-generation, high-performance biofuels with increased cost-effectiveness.

—Dr. Jay D. Keasling, Amyris co-founder, head of the company’s Scientific Advisory Board, and UC Berkeley, professor of chemical engineering and bioengineering




If John Melo is from BP then at least he's heard of Butanol. Outside of chemists no one else seems to even know it exists.

Rafael Seidl

Neil -

I expect the company is aware of butanol and, technology for producing it in bioreactors (www.butanol.com). N-butanol is best thought of as a potential replacement for bulk gasoline (caveats apply). Ethanol, by contrast, makes more sense as an octane enhancer and oxygenate.

However, only ethanol currently enjoys a protectionist tariff in the US. Khosla ventures has invested in another outfit to produce ethanol in California, which would avoid transport overheads. We'll have to see if this new company is prepared to look beyond gasoline additives at all.


Khosla Ventures, founded by Vinod Khosla aka Sun Microsystems co-founder.

The comments to this entry are closed.