Category Archives: Amyris, Inc.

Amyris, the corporate Rodney Dangerfield?


The late comedian Rodney Dangerfield is most famous for a single line:

Once upon a time, the UC Berkeley-spawned, Bill Gates-endowed startup did get more than its share of respect, thanks to the celebrity status of founder and Cal “bioengineer” Jay Keasling, who’s appeared on The Colbert Report and was named Scientist of the Year for 2006 by Discover Magazine.

In 2010, Keasling was confidently declaring that the genetically engineered microbes he’d help develop to turn plant fiber into fuel in the laboratory could be scaled up from the test tube  to refinery scale operations with no problems, ensuring commercial quantities of fuel to stave off the peak oil crisis.

That, of course, has proven a fantasy, with Amyris now paying $29 bucks for every gallon of diesel fuel derived from its patented, genetically engineered microbes.

With losses soaring, the company’s stock has tanked, plunging from a high of $33.85 14 months ago to today’s new record low of $1.86.

The company’s rapid descent toward penny stock levels has thrown a damper on new companies seeking to issue initial public offerings, dubbed “the Amyris effect” by Biofuels Digest editor Jim Lane.

Now comes more news about the company’s toxic impacts on the IPO sector from Kevin Quon of Seeking Alpha in a story about the failed IPO of Enerkem, a much-ballyhooed company which hopes to turn sewage into fuel.

Here’s the money quote, particularly that last sentence:

The implications of the company’s withdrawal from its IPO process casts a long shadow upon the public biofuel space. Similar market condition issues were faced with an IPO of Ceres (CERE), a biofuel crop specialist, which faced delays in its own IPO back in early 2012. Yet the largest ramifications are both reflected by and reflective of the current market conditions of recent biofuel companies that underwent an IPO in the past two years. Companies like Amryis (AMRS), Gevo (GEVO), and Codexis (CDXS) all continue to trade under their IPO prices. For its part, Amryis had even helped contribute to the industry collapse through its inability to scale up its production facilities problem-free.

Read the rest.

Amyris has proven very adept at one process, the reverse of what Enerkem had planned: Turning cash into trash.

Amyris hits another record low, $1.86


For shareholders of the UC Berkeley-spawned genetic engineering company, the news just keeps getting worse.

Follow the downward-bouncing stock here.

Amyris reveals its biodiesel cost: $29 a gallon


That translates to the price of price of 14 shares of the company’s stock, which is probably the reason they’ve been plummeting since the company made the announcement.

As we write, the stock is selling for $2.02, one cent under the morning’s opening trade.

From Kevin Bullis of MIT Technology Review:

Shortly after it was founded, Amyris had set out to make biofuel using genetically modified organisms and simple chemistry to turn sugar into a type of oil that’s similar to diesel. It had some success making bio-derived biodiesel for buses in Brazil. But the chemicals produced by the company’s microörganisms can be used for other things as well, such as moisturizers and fragrances, that sell for higher prices.

[Tuesday] night, the company said the average selling price for all its products is $7.70 per liter, or $29 per gallon, far higher than the price for petroleum-based diesel. (In Brazil, diesel costs about $1 per liter.)

The average price—which is propped up by the price it can charge for moisturizer—is higher than what Amyris sells bio-derived biodiesel for. (It didn’t disclose the exact price for the fuel.) But even $7.70 per liter isn’t enough for the company to break even.

>snip<

Amyris is still producing biodiesel, in limited amounts, the company said last night. It is also still working on joint ventures that could allow it to build large plants for making fuels at some point in the future, but first it will try to make its moisturizer and fragrance business profitable. Meanwhile, it’s looking to raise new money this year, mainly through partnerships and collaboration agreements, to keep itself afloat.

Read the rest.

This isn’t the first time Amyris has failed to deliver on promises of cheap stuff made with GMO bugs.

The corporation was originally created by UC Berkeley bioengineer and serial entrepreneur Jay Keasling with bucks from Bill  Gates to deliver a vastly cheaper version of the antimalarial drug artemisinin.

The bug makes the drug, but at the same price as the kind derived from the wormwood plants [artemisia] farmed by thousands of subsistence farmers in Africa and Asia — and that’s when it’s sold for no profit by Big Pharma’s Sanofi Aventis.

End of Total contract would cost Amyris a fortune

We also discovered a little item buried deep in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, a 23 November 2011 amendment to the contract between Amyris and French oil giant Total, their principal corporate partner in developing fuels from Amyris’ genetically modified microbes.

The joint venture agreement ends 31 December 2013, and if Total decides not to renew, Amyris would be left with an obligation to pay the company $150 million.

Here’s the language that caught our eye:

TOTAL Option Upon the Renewable Diesel Project Completion Date

As used herein, “Renewable Diesel Project Completion Date” shall be December 31st, 2013 or any other date as determined by the Management Committee to achieve the End-Project Milestone (as defined in the Renewable Diesel Development Project Plan).

A. For a period of 90 days following the Renewable Diesel Project Completion Date, TOTAL shall have the option, exercisable in its sole discretion, to notify AMYRIS in writing that TOTAL does not wish to pursue the production or commercialization of the Renewable Diesel Product (such option, the “TOTAL Royalty Option”). Provided TOTAL timely notifies AMYRIS of its decision to exercise the TOTAL Royalty Option (such date of notification, the “Royalty Notification Date”), then the following provisions shall apply:

B. Effective as of the Royalty Notification Date, all of TOTAL’s rights in or to any and all Collaboration IP developed during the performance of the Renewable Diesel Development Project Plan (hereinafter, the “Diesel Collaboration IP”) shall terminate and TOTAL shall assign to AMYRIS all right, title and interest of TOTAL in and to Diesel Collaboration IP. TOTAL shall, at AMYRIS’ reasonable expense, execute all documents and take all actions reasonably requested by AMYRIS from time to time to perfect AMYRIS’ title to and ownership thereof. Prior to the Royalty Notification Date, TOTAL shall not assign or transfer to any of its Affiliates or third parties any such right, title and interest so as to ensure that AMYRIS obtains the benefit of this provision.

C. In consideration of the benefits AMYRIS may derive from the technology and intellectual property developed during the Renewable Diesel Development Project and TOTAL’s assignment of its right, title and interest in and to the Diesel Collaboration IP, commencing on the Royalty Notification Date and ending on the date when AMYRIS has paid TOTAL an aggregate amount equal to $150,000,000 (the “Aggregate Royalty Amount”), AMYRIS shall pay TOTAL a royalty of Continue reading

Amyris plunges again, stock hits new low of $1.89


UPDATE: Just hit $1.96.

UPDATE II: Now at $1.91.

UPDATE III: $1.89. That’s down a full 25 percent since yesterday’s record low.

UPDATE IV: Shares closed at $1.99, down 23 percent from yesterday’s closing.

Holy GMO, Batman!

Yep, the stock of the company created by Jay Keasling UC Berkeley’s resident “celebrity bioengineer” with cash from Bill Gates, is sinking kke a stone. After hitting yesterday’s all-time low of $2.30,, it promptly tanked again this morning.

We’d bet a lot of folk whose shares were worth $33.85 just 14 months ago are wishing they’d sold then.

Today’s plunge follows on yesterday’s bleak earnings [sic] report and Friday’s announcement that one of their major investors had liquidated most of their holding.

Should the stock hit a buck, which seems almost inevitable given the steep decline since the peak, the Emeryville-based firm would lose its NASDAQ listing.

Amyris first quarter losses hit $94.5 million


That was the word today from CEO [and former BP vice president] John Melo.

The loses, which include $36.7 million from failed stock sales and the closure of the company’s U.S. ethanol distribution system, are nearly three times those of the first quarter of 2011.

The announcement heralds yet another setback of the UC-Berkeley-spawned genetic engineering company founded by Jay Keasling, Cal’s resident “synthetic biology” superstar and serial entrepreneur [he cashed out of Amryis long ago and has launched another, rival firm].

From the company’s announcement:

Aggregate revenues for the quarter ended March 31, 2012 were $29.5 million versus $37.2 million in the first quarter of 2011. This change in revenue was due to a decline in Amyris Fuels sales as Amyris executes the planned wind-down of this business line. Cost of products sold was $43.8 million versus $34.4 million, related to costs incurred in the delivery of Amyris Fuels products and costs associated with the production of Amyris renewable products. The Company also recorded a charge of $36.7 million in the quarter ended March 31, 2012 related to losses on purchase commitments and write-off of production assets. Research and development expense increased to $21.3 million from $19.7 million, and sales, general and administrative expense increased to $21.7 million from $16.0 million. First quarter 2012 GAAP net loss attributable to common stockholders was $94.5 million compared with $33.1 million in the same quarter of 2011. On a non-GAAP basis, excluding stock-based compensation expense and the losses from fixed purchase commitments and write-off of production assets, the net loss attributable to Amyris, Inc. common stockholders for the first quarter ended March 31, 2012 was $51.4 million compared to $29.1 million in the prior year. A reconciliation of GAAP to non-GAAP results is included in this release.

The Company’s balance at the end of the first quarter of cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities was $103.5 million.

Part of the losses stem from the decision by a major investor, the Fidelity group of funds, to liquidate two-thirds of their holdings in the firm, a bombshell dropped on investors Friday in advance of today’s earning statement.

Fidelity had plunged into Amyris with a massive and much-heralded $25 million buy of “senior unsecured convertible promissory notes” on 28 February.

There’s a name for it: The Amyris effect

The company’s shares hit an all-time low of $2.30 in early morning trading today, then recovered to $2.53 by market close.

The collapse of Amyris share prices — from $33.85 14 months ago to today’s record low — reflects a broader trend in the profiles of companies that have sought to bring genetic engineering to the task of producing new plant-based fuels.

Writing in Biofuels Digest, Jim Lane gives it a name:

Call it the Amyris effect — after the company that has struggled with the issues more than any other, in its pursuit of world-class scale. Why is it important? For one, poor post-IPO performance by the handful of companies that have made it through the IPO gate, is bound to impact the chances of others to come through later.

Read the rest.

A board member departs

The company also filed an announcement with the Securities and Exchange Commission revealing that Samir Kaul, one of six partners at high profile “green” investment firm Khosla Ventures, has resigned as an independent director on the Amyris board:

On May 3, 2012, Samir Kaul resigned from the Board of Directors (the “Board”) of Amyris, Inc. (the “Company”), effective immediately. The Board simultaneously appointed Geoffrey Duyk, a partner of TPG Biotech (the growth equity and venture investment platform of the global private investment firm TPG) and a director of the Company from May 2006 to May 2011, to serve as a director effective immediately following Mr. Kaul’s resignation. The Board appointed Dr. Duyk to the Class I board seat previously held by Mr. Kaul. The Board also appointed Dr. Duyk to serve as a member of the Audit Committee in place of Mr. Kaul. At the same meeting, the Board appointed Carole Piwnica and John Doerr to serve as members of the Leadership Development and Compensation Committee, one to serve as a replacement for Mr. Kaul and one to serve as a replacement for Patrick Pichette, who previously had served on the Leadership Development and Compensation Committee.

TPG is another investor, holding 6.5 million shares.

Khosla Ventures was represented on the board not because of the size of their holdings [only 61,238 shares compared to the 11.9 million held by French oil giant Total] but presumably because firm founder Vinod Khosla is the leading celebrity investors in the green energy game.

More on the departures of two executives

May Day brought the departure of two senior Amyris executives [here and here], and another document filed with the SEC today revealed more details of the Continue reading

Amyris shares hit another new low, $2.30


The shares of the UC Berkeley-spawned genetic engineering company are back up to $2,48 as we write, with the company’s earning statement to come today.

Amyris loses major investment, shares at new low


UPDATE III: Shares closed at the all-time low of $2.47.

UPDATE II: Amyris shares hit another new low, $2.49.

UPDATE: Shares just hit another record low as we were posting. They’re now selling for $2.59.

Companies like to drop bad news on Friday. That’s because few people are interested in news on Saturday.

Amyris, the UC-Berkeley spawned genetic engineering company created by Val “bioengineer” Jay Keasling, dropped a bombshell on Friday afternoon: Their biggest mutual find investor, the Fidelity group of funds, is selling off two thirds of their holdings.

The company had trumpeted the news when Fidelity bought 6.2 million shares on 28 February, paying $5.78 a share.

As of market close Friday, those same shares were worth $2.73, and as we write, they’re going for $2.65, just four cents above the company’s all-time low of two weeks ago. Shares were going to $33.85 just 14 months ago.

In a prospectus Amyris filed to sell the Fidelity shares, the company made the usually cautionary disclosures.

These in particular caught our eye:

We have very limited experience producing our products at the commercial scale needed for the development of our business, and we will not succeed if we cannot effectively scale our technology and processes.

>snip<

[O]ur technology may not perform as expected when applied at commercial scale on a sustained basis, or we may encounter operational challenges for which we are unable to devise a workable solution. For example, in 2011 at our contract manufacturing facilities, contamination in the production process, problems with plant utilities, lack of automation and related human error, process modifications to reduce costs and adjust product specifications, and other similar challenges decreased process efficiency, created delays and increased our costs. Such challenges are likely to continue as we and our contract manufacturing partners develop our production processes and establish new facilities.

Back in 2010, in a video produced for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where he hangs his hat as the lab’s chief synthetic biologist, Keasling blithely dismissed any problems with scaling up. As he observes in the video “They scale beautifully.”

To which we can only add, except when they don’t.

Back to the prospectus, where we discovered this little item:

The 4,173,622 shares of common stock covered by this prospectus may be acquired by the selling stockholders from us by electing to convert the senior unsecured convertible promissory notes issued to the selling stockholders pursuant to the Securities Purchase Agreement, dated February 24, 2012, by and between us and the selling stockholders. We agreed to file a registration statement with the SEC covering the resale of the shares issuable upon conversion of the unsecured senior convertible promissory notes referenced above.

Note that word “unsecured.”

UPDATE: Some background

Amyris was started by Keasling and funded by Bill Gates to used genetically engineered microbes produce a cheap version of the antimalarial artemisin to replace the drugg naturally derived from artemisia, the wormwood plant, which is cultivated by thousands of farmers in Asia and Africa.

While the bugs produced the drug, the price was no cheaper than the natural version [see here and here for some background.].

They next converted the microbe to produce precursors of fuel from plant cellulose. So far the process has been used mainly to produce higher cost chemicals for use in cosmetics, and mass-produced fuel remains a dream, thanks to those scale-up problems Keasling blithely assured us weren’t a problem.

Then, just two weeks ago, the company announced it was dumping its U.S. ethanol distribution system,

Just what the future holds for the company remains very much in doubt, and just how long the other major institutional investors will be willing to accommodate massive losses before forcing a bankruptcy remains an open question.