Amyris: a 5-Minute Guide

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Jim Lane

Amyris[1].jpgAddress: 5885 Hollis Street, Emeryville, CA

Year founded:


Annual Revenues:

$38 billion (DuPont overall for 2011)
$1.2 billon (Industrial Biosciences unit for 2011)

Company description:

Amyris is an integrated renewable chemicals and fuels company founded in 2003 and based in Emeryville, CA, with additional operations in Chicago, IL and Campinas, Brazil. Amyris has over 400 employees, with three-quarters of its employees located in the United States. Amyris subsidiaries include Amyris Brasil Ltda., a wholly-owned Brazilian company through which Amyris conducts its Brazilian operations for the manufacture and trade of products; and Amyris Fuels, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary through which Amyris is building its U.S. fuels distribution capabilities.


Type of Technology(ies): Amyris has developed genetic engineering technologies that enable modification of the way microbes process (i.e., metabolize) sugar. By controlling these metabolic pathways, Amyris is able to design microbes, primarily yeast, to be tiny living factories that convert plant-sourced sugars from crops such as sugarcane or sweet sorghum into target molecules. Using its industrial synthetic biology platform, Amyris develops yeast strains designed to produce a broad range of molecules. The first molecule that Amyris is focusing on is Biofene™, Amyris-brand farnesene, a hydrocarbon building block that can replace petrochemicals in a wide variety of products in the cosmetics, flavors and fragrances, consumer product, polymers, lubricants and fuel markets.

Feedstocks:Amyris can use a broad range of plant sugars to produce its products. Amyris expects to scale production initially using Brazilian sugarcane as a feedstock.

Products: Renewable fuels, lubricants, polymers and plastic additives, consumer products, flavors & fragrances and cosmetics.

Product Cost: Please see quarterly earnings statement

Offtake partners: As part of its go-to-market strategy capitalizing on the flexibility of its proprietary molecule, Amyris has entered a number of off-take and co-development agreements with partners in specific, high-value vertical markets such as cosmetics, consumer products, flavors and fragrances and lubricants. Amyris has an offtake agreement with Shell for the supply of Amyris No Compromise® diesel, with M&G Finanziaria S.R.L. to incorporate Biofene® as an ingredient into M&G PET processing and with The Procter & Gamble Company for use of Biofene in certain specialty chemical applications within P&G’s products. Amyris also has co-development agreements with companies in a variety of markets, including with Total to develop renewable jet fuel and with Kuraray to develop polymers to replace petroleum-derived feedstock such as butadiene and isoprene, allowing Amyris to target high-value markets while ramping up production of renewable diesel.

Past Milestones

1.      Completion of initial public offering.

2.      First purchase order for Amyris’s first commercial product, renewable squalane, followed by sales of Amyris renewable diesel and lubricants.

3.      Initial commercial production facilities in Brazil, Spain and U.S.

Future Milestones

1.      Build and operate two additional productions sites in Brazil (SMA and Paraiso).

2.      Remain on track for target production costs while meeting increasing customer demand.

3.      Add C5 and C10 molecules along with new products and customer agreements.

Business Model: (e.g. owner-operator, technology licensor, fee-based industry supplier, investor)

Amyris partners with biofuel producers to build new, “bolt-on” facilities adjacent to existing mills, instead of building new “greenfield” facilities, thereby reducing the capital required to establish and scale production, while simultaneously offering partners the opportunity to diversify and grow their product lines. Each of these steps in the production process – from the feedstock, through fermentation, to recovery and finishing – use processes that are already used by other industries today, enabling cost-effective scaling of production. Amyris’s streamlined production process employs an innovative take on established infrastructure and allows for lower start-up and capital costs and more efficient processes. In addition, Amyris’s partnership model incorporates cultivating long-term relationships with customers and co-developing ingredients with them to meet specific product development goals.

Competitive Edge(s):

Biofene provides a number of compelling advantages when compared to other renewable chemical and fuel alternatives, most notably that it is an oil. It can therefore be a drop-in replacement for many petroleum products, and it fits into the existing petroleum transport and distribution infrastructure. It is also an extremely flexible molecule that, with a few simple finishing steps, can replace petroleum derived chemicals in a number of markets, including ingredients in cosmetics, polymers, lubricants and consumer products, and renewable diesel and jet fuel. Amyris’s technology has been designed to be feedstock-agnostic and its platform is extremely flexible; Biofene is just one of thousands of molecules that Amyris can produce.

Research, or Manufacturing Partnerships or Alliances.

Amyris is a member of the National Advanced Biofuel Consortium under the Department of Energy (DOE) and NREL as well as a recipient of an Integrated Biorefinery (IBR) grant from the DOE. Amyris has ongoing research collaborations in Australia, Brazil and the U.S., and is a founding member of the Advanced Biofuel Association (ABFA), Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and Diesel Technology Forum (DTF), among others. Amyris has manufacturing partnerships with Glycotech, Biomin, Sao Martinho, Tate & Lyle and Antibioticos.

Stage (Bench, pilot, demonstration, commercial): Commercial

Disclosure: None.

Jim Lane is editor and publisher  of Biofuels Digest where this article was originally published. Biofuels Digest is the most widely read  Biofuels daily read by 14,000+ organizations. Subscribe here.


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