Amyris Biotechnologies, which aims to bring its biofuels to market as early as 2010, got a shot in the arm with a $70 million Series B financing round to support development and scale-up work for three transportation biofuels: biogasoline, biodiesel and biojet.
The Emeryville, Calif.-based company closed on the first tranche of the Series B funding, which was led by Duff Ackerman & Goodrich Ventures, of San Francisco, and joined by existing investors, including Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and TPG Ventures, all of Menlo Park, Calif. Amyris expects to close the second tranche of the financing by the end of the year.
The company said proceeds primarily will be used to continue the research and scale-up of its technology. Amyris, which CEO John Melo said hopes to become the first biofuels company to "go from production to customer," is developing a technology platform involving the use of environmentally friendly, renewable feedstocks - sugarcane, corn and cellulose, for example - to produce hydrocarbon transportation biofuels that are compatible with current engines and distribution infrastructure.
With its large-scale fermentation process, Amyris said it is developing a gasoline substitute containing more energy than ethanol and a diesel substitute that can be produced at lower costs and at greater scale than vegetable oil-based biodiesels.
Amyris also is using that same technology to cut the production costs of artemisinin-based malaria drugs in a program funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Artemisinin-based drugs offer a new hope for fighting malaria, since the disease has built increasing resistance to existing chloroquine-based therapies, but the high production cost has prevented those drugs from getting to poorer regions. Amyris' technology, which works by inserting genes from three separate organisms into microorganisms, has demonstrated an ability to produce artemisinin cheaply. On its web site, Amyris said it plans to take no profit from the sale of that product to the developing world.
The company previously raised $20 million in Series A round in October 2006.
In other financings news:
• Altheus Therapeutics Inc., of Oklahoma City, secured $3.6 million in venture capital financing to fund clinical trials of its inflammatory bowel disease product. The investigational therapy combines two FDA-approved drugs and has shown efficacy in animal models. Early testing also suggested that Altheus' product works faster than existing treatments, which often take as long as eight weeks to induce a clinical response. St. Louis-based Prolog Ventures led the financing round, with participation from the Oklahoma Seed Capital Fund and Oklahoma Equity Partners.
• InterMune Inc., of Brisbane, Calif., said it plans to offer 3 million shares of common stock in a public offering, with a 30-day option for underwriters to purchase an additional 450,000 shares for overallotments. In its prospectus, the company said proceeds would be used for general corporate purposes, including research and development, working capital and capital expenditures. Goldman, Sachs & Co. is acting as the sole book-running manager, with Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. serving as co-lead manager and CIBC World Markets Corp. as co-manager. Shares of InterMune (NASDAQ:ITMN) closed at $19.97 Wednesday, down 15 cents.