Biofuel and biochemical startup LS9, which is using a genetically modified version of e.coli bacteria to make diesel, has closed a round of $30 million according to a filing. LS9's new CEO Ed Dineen told me in a phone interview today that the Series D round was led by the investors at BlackRock, and also included the company's existing investors Khosla Ventures, Flagship Ventures and Lightspeed Ventures.
Dineen says the new funds, which bring the company's total to $75 million to date, will go towards fulfilling deals with its partners, like Procter and Gamble, building out its demonstration facility in Florida, establishing business in Brazil, and launching two or three new chemicals. Down the road, Dineen says he sees either a Series E round and/or a potential IPO to help the company raise enough funds to reach commercialization.
LS9 has a "one-step" fermentation process it says eliminates the need for additional chemicals and industrial processes. Earlier this year, the company said it developed a microbe that can produce advanced biofuels directly from cellulosic biomass, like woodchips, and the research was done in conjunction with the University of California at Berkeley and the Department of Energy's Joint BioEnergy Institute.
The startup currently operates a 1,000-liter pilot plant in South San Francisco, Calif., that produces vehicle-ready diesel from so-called first generation feedstock like sugarcane. But the long-term goal of LS9 is to produce biofuels and chemicals using cellulosic feedstock (energy crops, plant waste, etc), which the company says would reduce the total, life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of its products.
LS9 is one of a handful of startups and big companies that are using synthetic biology to produce biofuels, including Craig Venter's company Synthetic Genomics, Amyris, and Gevo.