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San Diego Regional Partnership to Develop Algal Biofuels; $10M Algae Prize Enters Due Diligence Phase

Scientists from UC San Diego (UCSD), The Scripps Research Institute and other local research institutions, along with their industry counterparts, recently established the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology, or “SD-CAB.” The primary goal of the center is to create a national facility capable of developing and implementing innovative research solutions for the commercialization of fuel production from algae.

Direct spending on algal biofuels, combined with the additional jobs and spending in related service industries this spending generates, is currently responsible for 513 jobs, $25.4 million in wages and $63.5 million in economic output in the San Diego region, according to the SANDAG study.

What’s needed to make algae a commercially viable source of biofuel is for scientists to identify and optimize microalgae to enhance their yields and their production of biofuel. That’s why the basic biological research of the institutions on the Torrey Pines mesa and the collaboration with local biotechnology industries within SD-CAB is so critical to the success of this effort.

—Professor Stephen Mayfield, The Scripps Research Institute, associate director of SD-CAB, and founder of Sapphire Energy

SD-CAB scientists are not only examining fresh-water species of algae, but those from the sea, an effort being carried out by researchers at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

In a news conference yesterday at the UCSD campus, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and others declared their support for the partnership.

The San Diego region is home to more than 500 biotechnology companies. In the area, research on algal biofuels now employs 272 scientists and other workers in the San Diego region, according to an economic assessment completed last week by the San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG, Service Bureau.

In advance of the press conference, Lee Stein, founder and chairman of Prize Capital announced the due diligence phase, covering final planning, rules development and schedule for a proposed $10 million Algae Fuel Prize focused on spurring the development of advanced fuels from algae.

Under this model, Prize Capital selects teams from among those entering each competition and provides each with working capital to create prototypes, secure protection for their intellectual property, and potentially other essential needs. The concept is to provide financial leverage so teams of all sizes can accelerate their discovery processes, enhance the level of competition and speed a result, Stein said.

We see the Algae Fuel Prize as complementary to existing R&D efforts, including ours. The current research initiatives and venture capital dollars that are focused on developing algae and other significantly advanced renewable fuel technologies will benefit from the new minds, creativity and media attention being added to the mix from this prominent competition.

—Stephen Mayfield


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