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Solazyme Grows $45M for Algae Fuel

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Last week, Solazyme CEO Jonathan Wolfson said confidently that his synthetic biology startup would be able to produce millions of gallons of biofuel from algae within three years. That confidence could have been fueled by a large, $45.4 million Series C round of funding that the company has raised, according to The money reportedly comes from return investors the Roda Group and Harris & Harris Group, as well as new additions Braemar Energy Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

Like Aurora Biofuels and Synthetic Genomics, Solazyme’s intellectual property resides in the DNA of the custom-made algal strains that the company engineers. Solazyme grows its designer algae in fermentation tanks without sunlight, by feeding it sugar, and uses existing industrial equipment to extract the oil. The next step for the company, Wolfson told CNet, is a commercial-scale plant that will break ground in the next two years.

Founded in 2003, the South San Francisco-based startup began as a synthetic biology company focused on drug manufacturing, but switched over to biofuels when it found VCs were hungry to invest in cleaner transportation fuels. Since then, Solazyme has secured development deals with Chevron and Imperium Biofuels (oops).

Previously, Solazyme had raised about $8 million in equity and $7 million in debt as well as winning a $2 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.