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Codexis IPO: Biocatalyst Startup Debuts on Nasdaq at Low End

Codexis (s CDXS), a Redwood City, Calif.-based developer of biocatalysts for drug and biofuel production, launched its initial public offering this morning — debuting on the Nasdaq under the symbol “CDXS.” Codexis proposed in March to offer 6 million shares in the range of $13-$15 apiece. But Codexis set the final pricing for its IPO on the low end Thursday — at just $13 per share for a raise of $78 million.

Codexis represents just one of a whopping 19 companies in greentech (or that at least carry a “green banner,” as investor Vinod Khosla put it recently) that have announced plans to go public since September. We’ll be watching it to see if it ends up being a weak greentech IPOs that could sour the market.

Founded in 2002 as a spin-out from drug developer Maxygen (which now owns an approximately 21.3 percent stake), Codexis counts oil giants Shell (s RDSA), Chevron, Pfizer and CMEA Capital among its backers. The company’s technology involves taking a natural microbe or enzyme and tweaking the DNA sequences to create new variants. Codexis then searches for the variants best suited to development of new, potentially cheaper drugs (Pfizer used Codexis enzymes to produce Lipitor), fuel from cellulosic biomass, chemicals and systems for water treatment and carbon management.

Codexis originally filed with financial regulators to go public back in April 2008, but withdrew the filing by fall of that year “due to current public market conditions.” According to the prospectus that Codexis filed in December 2009, the company plans to use the proceeds from its IPO to help fund working capital and other general corporate purposes, and possibly also acquisitions of other businesses, products or technologies. Codexis says it may use a portion of the funds to boost its production capacity for internal biocatalysts.

While Codexis says it’s working to expand into new markets, its “primary development efforts” at this point are “focused on producing biocatalysts that can enable Shell to become a global leader in the advanced biofuels market,” according to Codexis’ filing with the SEC today. If the startup succeeds in developing viable biocatalysts for biofuel production, Codexis plans to rely on Shell (or other companies selected by the oil giant), “to design and build the commercial scale fuel production facilities and to distribute the final fuel product.”

So far, much of Codexis’ revenue has come from R&D agreements with a small group of customers. In the 2009 calendar year, the startup’s top five customers accounted for 90 percent of its total revenue, with Shell alone making up 76 percent of the total.

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