Venter's Synthetic Genomics Is Gearing Up

Craig Venter’s Synthetic Genomics, a startup that is looking to do no less than overthrow the petrol industry and create an artificial life form, is in the process of raising another round of funding in the “$100 million to $200 million range,” the company’s Chief Financial Officer Chuck McBride tells us. Venter has said that the startup can deliver a biofuel that turns carbon dioxide into octane in as little as 18 months, and McBride tells us that the company is now raising money in anticipation of getting a biofuel product to market soon.

McBride, who joined the firm in January, told us at the Fortune Green conference, that the company is talking to a variety of venture capital firms and strategic investors, like agriculture companies and petrochemical companies, for possible investment. The company is looking to close the round in the next three months.

Synthetic Genomics is already backed by high-profile VC firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, along with other private investors, as well as strategic investor BP.

At a roundtable at the Fortune conference, Venter said using carbon as a feedstock for biofuels isn’t what’s difficult; the hard part is moving a solution in the lab to a grand scale. Venter said the company envisions 1 million biofuel-converting micro-facilities throughout the country.

Using carbon as a feedstock for biofuels could also “drive the CO2 sequestration” industry, Venter said. Capturing and storing carbon from power plants is still in the very early stages, as the options for what to do with the captured carbon are less than ideal — basically, most players plan to store it underground. Turning carbon into vehicle fuel could offer one of the best solutions we’ve heard. It almost sounds too simple, but Venter assured us that the biology is there, if not at scale just yet.

For those not familiar with Craig Venter, he is one of the most well known scientists of our time and revolutionized genomics. He also recently wrote a book about decoding his own genome, and he isn’t shy about making audacious plans and predictions. So expect to see some big announcements from Synthetic Genomics over the next year, as the company raises funds, gets closer to a real product and takes a shot at “replacing the petrol industry.”