A View from Katherine Bourzac
Biofuels Company Plans to Go Public
Amyris, which uses genetically engineered yeast to turn sugarcane to diesel, has filed for an IPO.
Read about the company’s move to Brazil in Technology Review’s March/April issue here. An excerpt:
Less well publicized is that Amyris has raised more than $170 million in venture capital to get itself into the biofuels business and that its current plans call for producing nearly all that fuel in Brazil. Roel Collier, a Belgian fluent in Portuguese who heads Amyris’s Brazil operations, points to a 12-meter-tall steel tank in which genetically modified yeast is feasting on the juice of the sugarcane that is so abundant in this country. “Inside is cutting-edge American technology applied to the competitive advantage of Brazil,” he explains.
For the last two years, Collier’s responsibilities have included shipping drums of frozen Brazilian sugarcane juice to Amyris’s California laboratory, some 10,000 kilometers away. There, scientists have been genetically rewiring ordinary yeast cells to digest caldo de cana, as the juice is called, and turn it into farnesene, a fragrant oil that Amyris has shown can be converted into diesel fuel. In the fast-moving field of synthetic biology–a discipline that looks to rewrite the DNA of microörganisms as if it were computer code–the California laboratories of Amyris are considered state of the art.