Genomatica Raises $15M to Build Demo Plant For Sustainable Chemical Production

3/25/10Follow @bvbigelow

We’ve been waiting for this one since last summer.

San Diego-based Genomatica is announcing today it has raised $15 million in a Series C venture round led by a new investor, TPG Biotech, to build a demonstration plant to make a common industrial chemical through a renewable technique, and to develop a bigger pipeline of other petrochemical alternatives.

Genomatica’s existing investors, Mohr Davidow Ventures, Alloy Ventures, and Draper Fisher Jurvetson, joined in the round with TPG Biotech, which is affiliated with TPG, the global $45 billion investment firm. The company has raised a total of $38.5 million since it was founded in 2000, according to CEO and co-founder Christophe Schilling.

Genomatica, which describes itself as a sustainable chemicals company, uses a fermentation tank filled with sugar and genetically engineered microbes to produce mass quantities of 1, 4 butanediol. Also known as BDO, the hydrocarbon is an intermediate chemical widely used by the petrochemical industry to make plastics, solvents, pharmaceuticals, textiles and automotive components.

When Genomatica said last June it had succeeded in making commercial-grade batches of BDO, Schilling told me that achievement had cleared the way for construction of a small-scale industrial BDO demonstration plant. Now, after nine months, the company has secured the necessary funding to move ahead with those plans. Schilling says the demo plant will be big enough to produce about a ton of BDO a day, although he adds that the company has not yet disclosed where it plans to build the plant. Such a facility would require a 30,000-liter fermentation vessel (about 7,925 gallons) housed in a facility that could be as big as 20,000 square feet.

In a statement released by Genomatica, TPG Biotech principal Patrick McCroskey says, “After careful and rigorous scrutiny of this competitive field, no company is better suited to drive low-cost petro-alternatives into the chemical industry. In short order and through … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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