Amyris IPO Update: DOE Funds Roll In, Losses Top $136M

Amyris Biotechnologies has taken one more step toward the long sought after goal of commercial scale next-gen biofuel production. Amyris filed last month to raise $100 million in an initial public offering, and this week the company’s latest filing with financial regulators shows it has collected its first revenue from a $24.3 million federal grant, awarded on a conditional basis late last year. But amid rising revenues, the IPO hopeful’s losses have also grown.

Backed by more than $244 million from a long list of investors, including Khosla Ventures and Kleiner Perkins, 7-year-old Amyris reports in its latest filing that its net losses now total $136.6 million. The company, which plans to start producing its synthetic organism-based biofuel at commercial scale in 2011, saw a loss of $16.3 million in the first quarter of 2010 alone, up from $12.4 million in the same period a year earlier.

Amyris, which has never turned a profit on a quarterly or annual basis, reports that revenue climbed to $13.7 million — including $2.3 million recognized from the DOE grant — during the first three months of this year, up from $11.6 million in revenue a year earlier.

Amyris attributes the rise in revenue primarily to an $8.4 million increase in sales of ethanol that Amryis buys from third party producers — the company has yet to commercialize any of its own products. Amyris says it sold 4.9 million gallons of ethanol in the first quarter of 2010 — more than it sold during all of 2008 and upwards of six times the 700,000 gallons it sold during the same period in 2009. According to Amyris the uptick stems from a growing customer base and the addition of new storage terminals in its network for distributing third party ethanol to wholesale customers.

That’s a significant jump, but as Synthetic Genomics founder (and artificial life creator) Craig Venter put it earlier this year, biofuel companies are “just playing” and “wasting investors’ money” unless they can generate billions of gallons of fuel (Venter referred in his comments specifically to algae fuel).

The DOE grant comes through a program funded by the Recovery Act to support demonstrations of “integrated bio-refinery operations.” The DOE has agreed to reimburse Amyris for up to $24.3 million out of a total of up to $34.9 million in expenses for research activities undertaken as part of a pilot project in Emeryville, while requiring Amyris to share up to $10.6 million of project costs.

Amyris opened its first pilot plant in Emeryville in 2008 and the following year it opened a pilot plant and a demonstration plant, in Campinas, Brazil. The DOE grant is meant to help Amyris expand its existing Emeryville plant to produce a diesel substitute by fermenting biomass from sweet sorghum (up to 1,370 gallons per year), and secondarily, have capacity to churn out substitutes for petroleum-based products like lubricants and polymers.

Amyris represents one company in a flood of firms working under the banner of greentech that are hoping to go public in 2010. In total, at least 19 companies aim to raise some $9.6 billion worldwide in 2010.

Photo courtesy of DOE

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