LS9 Makes “Major Breakthrough” in Cellulosic-based Fuel Production

Khosla Ventures-backed LS9, which is using a genetically modified version of e.coli bacteria to make diesel, announced Wednesday that it has made a “major breakthrough” in the production of biofuels and chemicals from cellulosic biomass. The company, working with researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and the Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute, said it has developed a microbe that can produce advanced biofuels directly from cellulosic biomass, such as woodchips, in a “one-step” fermentation process that eliminates the need for additional chemicals and industrial processes.

LS9 aims to produce biofuels and renewable chemicals to replace conventional petroleum-based products, and the company said this breakthrough will enable it to do this at lower costs. Biofuels ultimately will need to compete against conventional fuels on the open market, and any technological advancement that lowers production costs should make LS9 more competitive.
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Amyris Closes in on $60M Round for Synthetic Diesel

Amyris_About_PICAmyris Biotechnologies, which is developing synthetic organisms to make chemicals and biofuels, is closing in on its third round of funding. The Emeryville, Calif., company announced Thursday it has raised $41.75 million of a targeted Series C round of approximately $60 million. The announcement represents an additional $17 million raised in less than two months.

The news that Amyris was working on the round came out in August, after the company reported to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it had raised $24.7 million toward an anticipated $62 million round. A few days later, the company said it raised $2.4 million more.
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Amyris Opens Synthetic Diesel Pilot Plant

Amyris, a synthetic biology startup focused on fuel production opened its first pilot plant in Emeryville, Calif. today. The company plans to use sugarcane to make diesel, jet fuel and gasoline that would be chemically similar to petroleum equivalents.

Codexis IPO is Long on Promise – and Risk

Sometimes it takes an IPO to draw the spotlight to a promising idea. That may be the case with Codexis, a chemical company located in the heart of Silicon Valley with an interesting approach to synthetic biology.

Codexis, which filed on Monday a prospectus with the SEC, is in the business of evolved biocatalysts. That is, it takes a microbe or enzyme in nature and shuffles DNA sequences to create new variants, then screens for the variants most capable of developing new, potentially cheaper drugs and non-ethanol biofuels.

The company is hitting the markets with a long track record of losses, but in its favor it has lined up some well-known customers and partners. Codexis is supplying enzymes to Pfizer to help improve its Lipitor drug. It also sold a 13 percent stake Shell, cementing a deal to develop enzymes that can turn biomass into fuel.

You can’t help but wonder why Codexis is going public now, bracing one of the least friendly public markets in years with accumulated losses of $94 million. It could be that investors want help funding a high burn rate. Codexis’ cash flow over the past three years is negative $23.4 million and its prospectus notes:

We expect to incur losses and negative cash flow from operating activities for the next several years.

So will a stingy Wall Street want to help finance Codexis even as profits remain years off? The answer could just be yes, given that this is one of the first chances to invest early in a promising synthetic biology startup. But this is a lot of risk for a market that has seen too much of it of late.

Why a .Mac service for PCs could be in the cards

Mwsfdotmac_2The web continues to quake with aftershocks of “Safari-gate”: the Apple Software Update that installs Safari 3.1 for Windows by default. I tend to side with the folks that claim this practice isn’t the most forthcoming, but there are numerous examples of other companies doing the same thing for years. In the end, it’s up to each individual user to actually examine which check-boxes are activated and therefore, which applications are installed.Having said that, I started thinking about Safari 3.1 on PCs. Maybe I’ve been spending too much time writing about file synchronization applications lately, but it got me wondering if Apple is working on a “.Mac lite” service for Windows PCs. We’re getting to the point where assuming there are PCs and Mac co-existing in the same household isn’t that far-fetched.
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