by Boonsri Dickinson
You may not be able to fill up your car with a loaf of bread, but you can kill malarial mosquitoes with yeast and that’s driving the dream of the bankers, scientists and engineers at Emeryville, CA based Amyris. The company raised $85 million selling 5.3 millions shares for $16 each, though Amyris and underwriters Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs had earlier hoped to sell them between $18 and $20.
Most things you use have petroleum in them: computers, smart phones, water bottles, and cosmetics.
Biofuel companies offer an alternative to oil-based products. If you can reprogram yeast to make high value carbons, then you can replace the petroleum in these products with the renewable products.
For that reason, the company’s first shot at commercialization was using farnesene, a molecule ubiquitous in household items such as detergents and transportation fuel such as diesel. The idea is to build chemical products with farnesene instead of petroleum. The company is talking with Procter & Gamble about meeting the renewable chemicals demand.
Essentially, the company takes advantage of genetically modified yeast (which is the same stuff that ferments beer). The yeast acts as living factories, which converts sugar into biofuels.
So it is no surprise Amyris has its eyes on the biofuels market. With partnerships in Brazil, the company wants sugarcane suppliers to hook up the company’s specialized facilities to their already existing mills.
However, Amyris needs money to grow at a time when the company is not profitable. Scaling up the technology is another major challenge. Nevertheless, Amyris’ renewable portfolio products will have a lot to prove.
Yesterday for BioBusiness.TV, Amyris CEO John Melospoke to me about his company making the initial stock offering. Click here to watch me discuss how he hopes to make his development stage company a commercial success.