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viability of Mascoma’s technology—which has the potential to make ethanol at a lower cost than conventional processes that rely on corn or soybeans as feedstock—at its testing facility in Rome, NY. The company also wants to secure debt financing, perhaps in the form of loans guaranteed by the DOE. In addition, the firm seeks a corporate partner, such as a fuel company, that could both buy its ethanol and infuse it with capital though an equity investment.
Mascoma has already found a partner—the Marquette, MI-based forestry company J.M. Longyear—to provide wood chips to feed its ethanol-making process in Kinross. The two companies have formed a joint venture, called Frontier Renewable Resources, to build the facility. Frontier, based in Kinross, is expected to eventually employ 50 full-time workers, and its estimated economic impact would create hundreds of additional jobs in construction, timber, and other industries.
In addition to government grants, Mascoma has attracted more than $100 million from a bevy of investors, which include Atlas Venture, Flagship Ventures, General Catalyst Partners, Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, General Motors, Marathon Oil Co., Pinnacle Financial Partners, and Vantage Point Venture Partners. The big draw has been the company’s potential to streamline cellulosic ethanol production. Conventional methods require enzymes to digest plant materials into sugars, and then a separate step for yeast or bacteria to ferment the sugars into ethanol. In a lab test, one of Mascoma’s engineered microbes enabled digestion and fermentation to make ethanol in one process.
Still, companies can burn through hundreds of millions of dollars before … Next Page »
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