Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI) announced a new co-funded research agreement with ExxonMobil to develop algae biofuels. The new agreement is a basic science research program that focuses on developing algal strains with significantly improved production characteristics by employing synthetic genomic science and technology. Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.
In June 2009, SGI and ExxonMobil announced a research and development alliance focused on naturally occurring and conventionally modified algae strains. (Earlier post.) Over the nearly four years working together the companies gained considerable knowledge about the challenges in developing economical and scalable algae biofuels. (Earlier post.)
We look forward to working with ExxonMobil to undertake this in-depth focus on the basic science research to better understand and enhance algae. The new agreement gives us an opportunity to really focus on improving algal strains using our core synthetic biology technologies to develop biofuels.—J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., SGI’s founder and CEO
SGI said it also made significant strides in understanding algae genetics, growth characteristics, and enhancements to algae to improve algal biomass and lipid productivities.
The new agreement focuses on SGI’s core strengths in synthetic biology and will allow the company to further explore this area of research to develop improved algal strains. The agreement places greater emphasis on basic scientific research to develop strains which reproduce quickly, produce a high proportion of lipids and effectively withstand environmental and operational conditions.
SGI continues to invest in large-scale cultivation and product recovery facilities which will assist the company longer term in the scale-up and commercialization of improved algal strains for food, chemicals and fuel.
SGI currently has two facilities—a smaller scale research greenhouse and laboratory near the SGI campus in La Jolla, CA, and a larger-scale development and commercial production facility with closed photobioreactors, open ponds and product recovery unit operations in Imperial Valley, CA.