Amyris Biotechnologies, Inc., a privately-held company applying advances in synthetic biology to produce high-value pharmaceuticals, fine chemicals and biofuels, today announced that the company has raised $20 million in a first round of venture funding. The financing was led by Khosla Ventures, with additional participation from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), and Texas Pacific Group Ventures (TPGV). The company also announced the appointment of John G. Melo, previously president of U.S. Fuels Operations for bp plc., as chief executive officer. Also joining the Amyris board at this time are Samir Kaul, general partner, Khosla Ventures; John Doerr, general partner, KPCB; and Geoff Duyk, managing director, TPGV.
"Greentech could be the largest economic opportunity of the 21st Century," said John Doerr of KPCB. "Novel renewable energy sources will be key. John Melo is the perfect CEO to help Amyris innovate and lead in renewable fuels. At bp, he ran a multi-billion fuel operation with early commercial success with ethanol. John's insights, skills, and relationships are highly complementary to the deep technical talent of the Amyris founders. We are very excited to have him on board."
Mr. Melo stated, "I am excited about this opportunity to join a company that is using cutting-edge tools in chemistry and biology to develop solutions for major world problems, and look forward to guiding Amyris' expansion into new areas, including polymers, specialty chemicals and nutraceuticals, in addition to biofuels."
In his position as president of U.S. Fuels Operations, the largest marketing operating unit in bp, Mr. Melo successfully led business transformation efforts, increasing marketing volumes, reducing costs and significantly improving financial returns. During his eight years with bp, he also was chief information officer of the Refining and Marketing Segment, senior advisor for e-business strategy to Lord Browne, bp's group chief executive; and director, Global Brand Development, where he worked on the development of bp's "Helios" re-branding. Previously, Mr. Melo was a director with Ernst & Young in San Jose, California, and a management team member for several Northern California start-ups, including Computer Aided Services and Alldata Corporation.
"The completion of this financing validates the strength of Amyris' core technology and signals an important step in the company's growth. These new resources will enable the company to expand its capabilities to address major global health and energy challenges, thereby helping to fulfill the promise of synthetic biology," stated Jay D. Keasling, Ph.D., an Amyris founder, head of the company's Scientific Advisory Board, and University of California, Berkeley, professor of chemical engineering and bioengineering. "In addition to its ongoing focus on creating a low-cost malaria drug, Amyris will add a new program aimed at renewably producing second-generation, high-performance biofuels with increased cost-effectiveness."
Amyris Biotechnologies uses synthetic biology techniques to create new metabolic pathways in industrial microbes, turning them into living chemical factories for the efficient production of novel or rare chemicals. Amyris' primary project to date has focused on the use of synthetic biology to address supply and cost constraints limiting the use of the life-saving anti-malarial drug, artemisinin. In late 2004, Amyris joined the University of California, Berkeley, and the Institute for One World Health (iOWH) in a unique, three-way partnership to address the critical need in the developing world for a cost-effective malaria treatment. In the collaboration, Amyris is developing an industrial-scale process for the production of artemisinin, coupling highly-engineered microbial production systems to novel synthetic chemistry. The methodologies developed during this important ongoing project will translate to the ability of Amyris to bring a wide variety of compounds in world markets.
About Amyris Biotechnologies
Amyris Biotechnologies, Inc. uses synthetic biology to produce complex chemicals important to the pharmaceutical, energy and fine chemical industries. Amyris employs a variety of biosynthetic pathways engineered into microbes to provide commercial access to a range of high-value molecules, including promising new drugs that have not been developed because of supply limitations and novel biofuels with improved performance and environmental characteristics. For more information, please visit www.amyrisbiotech.com . For more information on the collaboration among Amyris Biotechnologies, the Institute for OneWorld Health, and UC Berkeley, please visit www.artemisininproject.org .
Khosla Ventures offers venture assistance, strategic advice and capital to entrepreneurs. The firm helps entrepreneurs extend the potential of the Internet to new markets such as mobile and supports breakthrough scientific work such as bio refineries. The partners have been involved in founding or growing billion dollar businesses such as Sun Microsystems, Juniper Networks and AOL and pioneering scientific work such as the first complete sequencing of a plant genome. Vinod Khosla founded the firm in 2004 and was joined by general partners David Weiden and Samir Kaul, as well as chief scientific officer Doug Cameron in 2006. The firm's capital comes entirely from its own partners and a portion of all profits are donated to charitable causes, with an emphasis on micro-finance and affordable housing. Khosla Ventures is based in Menlo Park, California.
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), founded in 1972, has backed entrepreneurs in 475 ventures, including AOL, Align, Amazon.com, Citrix, Compaq Computer, Electronic Arts, Genentech, Genomic Health, Google, Hybritech, IDEC Pharmaceuticals, Intuit, Juniper Networks, Netscape, Lotus, Nuvasive, Sun Microsystems, Symantec, Verisign and Xilinx. KPCB portfolio companies employ more than 250,000 people. More than 150 of the firm's portfolio companies have gone public. Many other ventures have achieved success through mergers and acquisitions. KPCB has broadly invested in both life sciences and information technology since inception in 1972. In the last six years, KPCB has expanded its focus to include Greentech and pandemic preparedness.
Texas Pacific Group Ventures (TPGV) manages over $1B of capital and is focused on funding and growing technology, biotechnology and consumer companies. TPGV utilizes several approaches including venture capital, growth equity, leveraged buyouts (LBO's) and private investments in public equities (PIPE's) on a global basis. TPGV is the growth fund of Texas Pacific Group (TPG) and delivers the combined leverage of TPGV's early stage growth and growth investing expertise with TPG's extensive resources to grow companies. TPG's global platform includes deep sector experience, a portfolio of approximately $70 billion in revenues, operating teams, and financing skills to deliver unique value to smaller innovative companies anywhere in their growth cycle.