LS9 Synthetic Biology Receives Another Round of Funding
LS9 has held onto its previous group of investors and added BlackRock, for a $30 million venture funding round.
LS9 uses a one-step fermentation process to convert renewable plant-based materials into a diverse portfolio of fuel and chemical products. The company has successfully operated its pilot plant in South San Francisco, California for more than two years and announced the acquisition of a larger-scale production facility in Okeechobee, Florida in January 2010. In June 2010, LS9 won the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award. _GCC
More on the underlying LS9 approach:
Pushing the frontiers of synthetic biology and industrial biotechnology, LS9 has perfected an elegant 1-step fermentation process that uses patent-pending DesignerMicrobes™ to efficiently convert renewable feedstocks to a portfolio of "drop in compatible" UltraClean™ fuels and sustainable chemicals. LS9's unique technology provides a means to genetically control the structure and function of its fuels and chemicals, enabling a product portfolio that meets the diverse demands of the petroleum economy.
LS9 has developed a new means of efficiently converting fatty acid intermediates into petroleum replacement products via fermentation of renewable sugars. LS9 has also discovered and engineered a new class of enzymes and their associated genes to efficiently convert fatty acids into hydrocarbons. LS9 believes this pathway is the most cost, resource, and energy-efficient way to produce petroleum-replacement products and industrial chemicals. This translates into efficient land and feedstock use and directly addresses tensions between food versus fuel and chemical production. _LS9
As long as one does not expect immediate profits from companies such as LS9, investing in such technology is a rational part of an overall energy portfolio. It is a long-term prospect, like its many well-financed cousins in the advanced biofuels research field.
The underlying science is sound, although problems of conversion to profitable commercial scale may take a decade to solve, and another decade to achieve scaleup. In the meantime, supply and demand questions are likely to drive energy & fuel prices like a whipsaw. But once advanced synthetic fuels achieve profitable scale-up (~20 years... AFE), they are likely to put a price ceiling on crude oil of around $60 a barrel in 2010 USD, according to Al Fin energy analysts.