Verenium, Shorn of Biofuels Business, Returns to San Diego and its Diversa Roots

3/22/11Follow @bvbigelow

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about 90 employees at its San Diego facility, which will become the company’s official headquarters on June 1, after Levine moves his family here from Boston. As a reorganized public company, Verenium has outgrown the role of a technology-developing startup that incurs regular losses. But it isn’t exactly a robust operating company, either. Verenium posted a $13.5 million operating loss in 2010, and has almost $75 million in debt. It also has nearly $88 million in cash left from its deal with BP.

“We’re in this spot where there is really only one way to go,” Levine says. “We have to go forward to profitability.”

For the coming year, Levine has set a number of goals: broaden and diversify the company’s line of industrial enzyme products, sign two new corporate partnerships, improve Verenium’s manufacturing through limited investments, control expenses, get at least two new products submitted for regulatory approval, and continue to address the company’s outstanding debt.

Levine’s prime directive is to refocus Verenium on “the incredible enzyme technology that Diversa created, and to make money from it.”

Diversa, which was founded in San Diego in 1994, has amassed billions of industrial enzymes, created by mining the genomes of organisms collected from deep sea thermal vents, Arctic tundra, soda lakes, and other far-flung corners of the world. Such enzymes are typically used as catalysts that act in highly specific ways to make certain biochemical reactions and processes possible.

Diversa had begun to develop a broad industrial enzyme business at the time of its 2007 merger with Cambridge, MA-based Celunol. But the enzymes Diversa had developed for breaking down cellulosic biomass were considered the crucial … 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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