Amyris Biotechnologies is a renewable products company headquartered in Emeryville, California founded in 2003. This company uses its industrial synthetic biology platform to provide alternatives to select petroleum-sourced products used in specialty chemical and transportation fuel markets.
Amyris Biotechnologies employs over 200 individuals and operates from facilities in Emeryville, California; Chicago, Illinois; and Campinas, Brazil.
Amyris was founded by scientists Jay Keasling, Kinkead Reiling, Neil Renninger and Jack D. Newman of the University of California, Berkeley.
How did the Founders Conceive the Idea
Amyris had the idea that using the same anti-malarial drug technology platform could work for three biofuels: bio-gasoline, bio-diesel, and bio-jet, in the lab. The technology produced compounds in synthetic biology to engineer microbes to alter pathways of microorganisms such as yeasts, creating what they call ‘living factories’ that that actually reprogram DNA to produce new molecules and chemical structures.
Subsequently, Amyris leaders decided to develop a reliable fuel substitute that would help reduce the dependence on oil and cut greenhouse-gas emissions using sugarcane as the feedstock, though they experiment with other plants and grasses in the future.
It took creative thinking and certainly real life opportunities to link an anti-malarial drug to biofuels. Some would say it was luck – yet how many business leaders are astute and clear enough to take an opportunity that incorporates world affairs, both the non-profit and profit sectors and also understand sustainability and profitability at the same time?
Amyris participates along the value chain by providing technology, leveraging others to produce their product, and then to market and distribute proprietary products worldwide.
Amyris Fuels currently generates revenues through the sale of third party ethanol to wholesale customers through a network of terminals in the southeastern U.S.
In support of this model, they intend to grow their production in Brazil where producers invest the capital to convert their mills, and then they market and distribute the produced products.
The company’s first production facility, a joint venture in Brazil with Usina Sao Martinho, will be operational in the second quarter of 2012.
Inflection points / Factors
Their first technology success has come through the development and application of the platform to create microbial strains that produce artemisinic acid, a precursor of artemisinin, an anti-malarial therapeutic.
Joint venture with sugar and ethanol producers of Brazil has been their major factor of inflexion in 2009.Amyris opened a demonstration plant in Brazil, which has an extensive infrastructure for biofuel production and is the world's most efficient producer of sugar. In a joint venture with one of the world's largest sugar and ethanol producers, it is converting part of one major Brazilian sugarcane mill into its first commercial production facility ( 2009)
$47.8M in Series D funding. (7/12/10)
$41.8M in Series C funding. (10/1/09)
$24.3M in Grant funding. (12/1/09)
$21M in Series B funding. (8/14/08)
$21M in Series B funding. (8/14/08)
$20M in Series A funding. (10/12/06)
Amyris started out as a non-profit initiative, applying their technology platform for a second source of the anti-malarial therapy, artemisinin.
The nonprofit project received funds from a five-year, $42.6 million grant awarded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation made Amyris’ foray into the ‘out-of-the-box’ collaboration with nonprofits, industry, government and philanthropists for long-term sustainability and success. This served as a launch pad to Amyris for raising $120 million in venture capital.
Amyris’ renewable products compete with the traditional, largely petroleum-based specialty chemical and fuels products that are currently being used in their target markets and with the alternatives to these existing products that established enterprises and new companies are seeking to produce. Amyris Fuels is said to compete with other distributors of ethanol, ethanol-blended gasoline.