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Amyris' Total Funds Reach $244M, Still Not Commercial

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As Synthetic Genomics founder and geneticist guru Craig Venter said recently, if biofuel companies don’t generate billions of gallons of fuel then they’re just playing and wasting investors money (he said that specifically about algae fuel). And so the race continues for next-gen biofuel players struggling to raise lots of money and move into commercialization. This morning biofuel maker Amyris Biotechnologies, which is developing synthetic organisms to make chemicals and biofuels, said it has raised close to $50 million more from Temasek Holdings, bringing its total funding to $244 million.

But, not unusual for the next-gen biofuel crew, despite its deep pockets the company still isn’t producing its synthetic organism-based biofuel at a commercial scale. Amyris said back in October that its next funding in 2010 would be used to advance its goal of commercializing in 2011.

The company opened its first pilot plant in Emeryville, Calif. in 2008 and opened another pilot plant, as well as a demonstration plant, in Campinas, Brazil, in 2009. The company told us in October it is pinning down its first commercial production site and plans to begin ordering equipment for the plant by the end of 2009.

Investors have seemed to grow weary lately of supporting these companies with long times to commercialization (Range Fuels, Coskata, Synthetic Genomics). And previous investor interest in biofuels seems to have trended toward support of electric vehicles and EV infrastructure, according to investment figures for the first quarter of 2010 out from the Cleantech Group this week.

Compared to some of its competitors, 7-year-old Amyris has made significant progress over its lifetime, and its long list of investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Khosla Ventures, TPG Biotechnology, Votorantim Novos Negocios, Advanced Equities Inc., DAG Ventures, Grupo CornĂ©lio Brennand, Naxos U.K., The Westly Group and Stratus Group. While there’s been some rumors that Amyris would file for an IPO soon, this latest funding suggests the company has turned to the private sector over public markets — for now.