Investors are a tough crowd to cultivate. Yet in the pond that is the biotechnology market, one product seems to be rising to the top like the green sludge it is: algae. Its potential use as biofuel is drawing venture money from places you might not expect. The reason: It could be both environmentally responsible and profitable.
The so-called “green crude” has piqued the interest of media from coast to coast, government agencies trying to decide how to regulate the stuff, local governments hoping it will perk up the economy, and investors with deep, deep pockets.
Think Bill Gates. Think the Rockefellers.
Think big oil.
The promise of a next-generation biofuel is so enticing that even the world’s biggest oil companies are investing in the very product that could make our reliance on fossil fuels go the way of the dinosaur. And it’s a gamble that’s bringing jobs and millions of dollars to San Diego, along with optimism that there’s more to come.
The largest oil refiner in the world, Exxon Mobil, is banking on the work of Synthetic Genomics, a La Jolla company founded and led by famed biologist J. Craig Venter, best known for his role in sequencing the human genome. Exxon Mobil has pledged $600 million toward algae research over the next 10 years, with $300 million earmarked for Synthetic Genomics. The companies cut the ribbon on a new greenhouse research facility at the La Jolla campus last month.