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Biofuels Developer Secures $17M Investment Round

Jatropha fruit (

Jatropha fruit (

SG Biofuels Inc., a bioenergy crop company in San Diego, has completed a $17 million financing round to expand its R&D and commercialization programs. The series B funding — the second round of financing after start-up — was lead by life sciences venture capital company Thomas, McNerney & Partners, with participation from Finistere Ventures and current investors Flint Hills Resources LLC, and Life Technologies Corporation.

SG Biofuels is a developer of hybrid seeds of jatropha as a low-cost feedstock for biodiesel, bio-based jet fuel, and chemicals. Jatropha curcas is a non-edible subtropical tree that grows in tropical and subtropical areas of Central and South America, India, Africa and Southeast Asia. Because jatropha grows on marginal land normally not suitable for cultivated crops, it does not compete with farmers’ food or cash crops. Jatropha’s seeds are crushed and the resulting oil can be processed to produce high-quality biodiesel for a standard diesel engine meeting U.S. and European standards.

The company says it has amassed a large collection of jatropha genetic material, including more than 12,000 types of jatropha collected from Central America, believed to be the center of origin of the species. SG Biofuels’ R&D aims to overcome some of the plant’s limitations, such as fruit yield, branching structure, pest resistance, soil adaptation, and flowering capabilities. These limitations have soured earlier hopes and projections of the plant’s biofuel potential.

SG Biofuels is partnering with genomic sequencing company Life Technologies — also an investor — to produce a jatropha reference genome to identify molecular markers and trait genes to advance development of transgenic plants with improved properties. The company also provides its hybrid jatropha seeds as part of Jetbio, an initiative in Brazil to produce bio-based jet fuel from jatropha. Partners in that project include Airbus, the Inter-American Development Bank, Bioventures Brasil, Rio Pardo Bioenergia, Air BP, and TAM Airlines.

Read more: Biofuels Start-Up Adds BP as Investor

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