Category Archives: Amyris, Inc.

Amyris warns on funding, layoffs; aids military


Amyris Inc. [previously and extensively], the much-ballyhooed genetic engineering spinoff created by UC Berkeley with the promise, never fulfilled, of creating cheap, cleaning burning fuel from plant cellulose, has yet to make a nickle, and in it’s latest quarterly report for the Security and Exchange Commission has warned of money woes, possible layoffs, and research cutbacks.

But there’s one notable bright spot: The company is working to create genetically engineered microbes for the Pentagon.

First the bad news, from the Emeryville-based company’s latest Form 10-Q filing:

The Company has incurred significant operating losses since its inception and believes that it will continue to incur losses and negative cash flow from operations into at least 2017. As of June 30, 2016, the Company had negative working capital of $108.3 million, an accumulated deficit of $1,066.0 million, and cash, cash equivalents and short term investments of $2.5 million. The Company will need to raise cash from additional financings or strategic asset divestments as early as the third quarter of 2016 to support its liquidity needs. These factors raise substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern. The financial statements do not include any adjustments that might result from the outcome of this uncertainty. If the Company is unable to continue as a going concern, it may be unable to meet its obligations under its existing debt facilities, which could result in an acceleration of its obligation to repay all amounts outstanding under those facilities, and it may be forced to liquidate its assets.

As of June 30, 2016, the Company’s debt, net of discount and issuance costs of $44.7 million, totaled $181.4 million, of which $80.0 million is classified as current. In addition to upcoming debt maturities, the Company’s debt service obligations over the next twelve months are significant, including $21.0 million of anticipated cash interest payments. The Company’s debt agreements contain various covenants, including certain restrictions on the Company’s business that could cause the Company to be at risk of defaults, such as the requirement to maintain unrestricted, unencumbered cash in defined U.S. bank accounts in an amount equal to at least 50% of the principal amount outstanding under its loan facility with Stegodon Corporation (or “Stegodon”), as assignee of Hercules Capital, Inc. As discussed below, the Company has received a waiver of compliance with such covenant through October 31, 2016. A failure to comply with the covenants and other provisions of the Company’s debt instruments, including any failure to make a payment when required would generally result in events of default under such instruments, which could permit acceleration of such indebtedness. If such indebtedness is accelerated, it would generally also constitute an event of default under the Company’s other outstanding indebtedness, permitting acceleration of such other outstanding indebtedness. Any required repayment of such indebtedness as a result of acceleration or otherwise would consume current cash on hand such that the Company would not have those funds available for use in its business or for payment of other outstanding indebtedness. Please refer to Note 5, “Debt” and Note 6, “Commitments and Contingencies” for further details regarding the Company’s debt service obligations and commitments. The Company also has significant outstanding debt and contractual obligations related to capital and operating leases, as well as purchase commitments.

In addition to the need for financing described above, the Company may take the following actions to support its liquidity needs through the remainder of 2016 and into 2017:

Effect significant headcount reductions, particularly with respect to employees not connected to critical or contracted activities across all functions of the Company, including employees involved in general and administrative, research and development, and production activities.
Shift focus to existing products and customers with significantly reduced investment in new product and commercial development efforts.
Reduce production activity at the Company’s Brotas manufacturing facility to levels only sufficient to satisfy volumes required for product revenues forecast from existing products and customers.
Reduce expenditures for third party contractors, including consultants, professional advisors and other vendors.
Reduce or delay uncommitted capital expenditures, including non-essential facility and lab equipment, and information technology projects.
Closely monitor the Company’s working capital position with customers and suppliers, as well as suspend operations at pilot plants and demonstration facilities.

Implementing this plan could have a negative impact on the Company’s ability to continue its business as currently contemplated, including, without limitation, delays or failures in its ability to:

Achieve planned production levels;
Develop and commercialize products within planned timelines or at planned scales; and
Continue other core activities.

Furthermore, any inability to scale-back operations as necessary, and any unexpected liquidity needs, could create pressure to implement more severe measures. Such measures could have an adverse effect on the Company’s ability to meet contractual requirements, including obligations to maintain manufacturing operations, and increase the severity of the consequences described above.

But the Pentagon came calling with cash

In a story we missed last September, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency coughed up $34.5 million from the agency’s Living Foundries program.

And just what is that program?

Find out, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Charts of the day II: The Amyris debacle continues


Amyris [previously and extensively], the company the University of California, Berkeley held up as a shining example of a campus-spawned startup and founded by a prof who was once the darling of the financial press, continues its descent into financial oblivion, with the stock selling for a mere 34 cents today, just one percent of its post-IPO high $33.85 on 28 February 2011.

Two charts track the stock’s plunge [which is bad news for French oil giant Total and the Singapore government’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings, the company’s largest shareholders].

The first chart comes from NASDAQ, the exchange which had listed the stock until the company filed a Notice of Delisting after shares plunged below the $1 level and turned the company’s offering into a so-called penny stock, presents the most genteel look at the plunge by using an algorithmic scale to tone down the bad news:

blog aMYRIS

The second chart, from the Financial Times, uses the more common sensical arithmetic scale:

BLOG Amyris 2

Either way, it’s bad news — for Amyris, for its shareholders, and for the University of California officials who are hell-bent on turning the greatest university system in the country into a tool of the corporation.

Amyris plunges to new record low, recovers


Amyris Inc. [previously], the UC Berkeley-spawned GMO start-up bankrolled by Bill Gates, Al Gore, and Arab oil sheikhs plunged to less than three shares for a buck before adding on six cents a share by the close of market Tuesday.

The record low of thirty-one cents a share was more than a hundred times below the post-IPO high of $33.85 less than five years ago.

The modest recovery was spawned by news that the company, which abandoned its goal of producing cheap fuel from plant cellulose in favor of turning out basic oils and compounds for cosmetics, had signed a new deal with perfume and flavor firm Givaudan to produce scents for perfumes.

The stock woes haven’t hut company founder and UC Berkeley bioengineer Jay Keasling, who sold his stock soon after the IPO, pocketing a eight-figure payoff, a sum that would be worth in the low six figures if he’d held on to his stock.

UC Berkeley-spawned Amyris shares collapse


The decline and fall of Amyris share prices, via NASDAQ.

The decline and fall of Amyris share prices, via NASDAQ.

Amyris Inc. [previously], the company started by UC Berkeley “bioengineer” Jay Keasling to create affordable fuels from using technology created to genetically engineer yeast to produce the most widely used antimalarial drug, hit an all-time low of forty-one cents per share today, down from the post-IPO high of $33.85.

Part of the reason is contained in a 20 June filing lodged by the company with the Security and Exchange Commission:

On June 14, 2016, Amyris, Inc. (the “Company”) received a letter from The NASDAQ Stock Market LLC (“NASDAQ”) notifying the Company that it is not in compliance with the requirement of NASDAQ Listing Rule 5450(a)(1) for continued listing on the NASDAQ Global Select Market as a result of the closing bid price of the Company’s common stock being below $1.00 for 30 consecutive business days. This notification has no effect on the listing of the Company’s common stock at this time.

In accordance with NASDAQ Listing Rule 5810(c)(3)(A), the Company has 180 calendar days, or until December 12, 2016, to regain compliance with NASDAQ Listing Rule 5450(a)(1). To regain compliance, the closing bid price of the Company’s common stock must be at least $1.00 for a minimum of 10 consecutive business. If the Company does not regain compliance during such period, it may be eligible for an additional compliance period of 180 calendar days, provided that the Company meets NASDAQ’s continued listing requirement for market value of publicly held shares and all other initial listing standards for the NASDAQ Capital Market, other than the minimum bid price requirement, and provides written notice to NASDAQ of its intention to cure the deficiency during the second compliance period. If the Company does not regain compliance during the initial compliance period and is not eligible for an additional compliance period, NASDAQ will provide notice that the Company’s common stock will be subject to delisting from the NASDAQ Capital Market. In that event, the Company may appeal such determination to a hearings panel.

The Company is currently evaluating its available options to resolve the deficiency and regain compliance with NASDAQ Listing Rule 5450(a)(1).

In other words, Amyris is now officially what’s called a “penny stock,” and stock valued at under a buck and restricted to trade on minor markets.

And while Amyris has promised and failed to deliver on its cheap fuel promises and shifted its development aims to tweaking its yeast to produce genetically engineered cosmetic chemicals, Bill Gates, an original investor from the company’s earliest days, gave Amyris $5 million in April to help cut costs on production of the drug for which he originally bankrolled Keasling and his students.

The drug is produced in Europe and Amyris realizes no profits from its sale.

But now comes more bad news and a possible reason for the continuing decline of the price of Amyris shares.

From the University of British Columbia:

The rapid decline in effectiveness of a widely used anti-malaria drug treatment on the Thailand-Myanmar border is linked to the increasing prevalence of specific mutations in the malaria parasite itself, according to a paper published in The Clinical infectious Disease Journal.

The mutations in specific regions of the parasite’s kelch gene – which are genetic markers of artemisinin resistance – were the decisive factor, the authors say, in the selection of parasites that are also resistant to mefloquine. This resulted in growing failure of the widely-used anti-malaria drug combination of mefloquine and artesunate, the first artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) on the Thai-Myanmar border.

Led by Dr. Aung Pyae Phyo of SMRU, the study used data from a 10-year study of 1,005 patients with uncomplicated P. falciparum malaria at Shoklo Malaria Research Unit (SMRU) clinics on the Thai-Myanmar border in northwest Thailand.

“This study demonstrates for the first time that artemisinin resistance leads to failure of the artemisinin partner drug, in this case, mefloquine. This means that the first line artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) introduced here in 1994 has finally fallen to resistance,” says François Nosten, Director of SMRU.

Resistance to artemisinin combination therapy drugs (ACTs) – the frontline treatments against malaria infection – poses a serious threat to the global control and eradication of malaria. If drug resistance spreads from Asia to the African sub-continent, or emerges in Africa independently, as has happened several times before, millions of lives, most of them children under the age of 5 in Africa, will be at risk.

The study shows that, contrary to the view sometimes expressed that resistance to artemisinin is not a direct threat, it is in fact responsible for the rapid demise of the partner drug and the failure of the drug combination, resulting in patients not being cured and further transmission of the malaria parasite.

“The evidence is clear: Artemisinin resistance leads to partner drug resistance and thereby the failure of artemisinin combination treatments,” said Oxford Professor Nicholas White, Chairman of the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) and chair of the Worldwide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN).

From the paper, a graph describes the rise of artemisinin-resistant genetic variants.

From the paper, a graph describes the rise of artemisinin-resistant genetic variants.

Given the very limited number of effective drugs, it is urgent to eliminate P. falciparum from the areas where it has developed resistance to the artemisinins, said Prof. White: “The spread of artemisinin resistant Plasmodium falciparum is perhaps the greatest threat to our current hopes of eliminating malaria from the world.”

A unit of the Bangkok-based MORU, SMRU is based in the refugee camps and migrant communities along the Thai-Myanmar border. Led by researchers based at SMRU (Thailand), the study was funded with the support of the Wellcome Trust (UK).

Reference:

Pyae Phyo A et al, Declining efficacy of artemisinin combination therapy against P. falciparum malaria on the Thai-Myanmar border (2003-2013): the role of parasite genetic factors [open access], Clinical Infectious Diseases, published online 16 June 2016.

Amyris Inc. sinks to all-time low, 61 cents a share


Once hailed by UC Berkeley brass as the preeminent startup, founded by the university’s genetic engineering rock star, and on course to save the world from depleted oil reserves by turning plants into transportation fuel, Amyris Inc. [previously] plunged to a record low this week of 61 cents a share, down from an all-time high of $33.85.

From NASDQ:

BLOG Amyris

Amyris was founded by UC Berkeley genetic “engineer” Jay Keasling who with and his students had engineered yeast to produce an anti-malarial drug, and declared they would used the same technology to produce low carbon fuels from cellulose.

Shortly after the IPO Keasling sold his stock, pocketing a ten-figure paycheck and heading back to campus. Investors, including Bill Gates [who had funded the anti-malarial research], a venture capital firm that numbered Al Gore among its principals, Mideastern royals and a Southeast Asian government, plus the oil giant Total and sundry investments piled on.

But the fuels never materialized, at least at anything approaching commercial prices, and the company wound up selling “all natural” cosmetics made from the excrement of those GMO yeast.

First quarter adjusted net losses losses for 2016, announced Tuesday, totaled $32.7 million.

Shares bounced back somewhat Friday, closing at two centers higher than the record low, perhaps on this news, filed with the SEC:

As previously reported, on April 8, 2016, Amyris, Inc. (the “Company”) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (the “Gates Foundation”) entered into (i) a Securities Purchase Agreement (the “Purchase Agreement”), pursuant to which the Company agreed to sell and issue 4,385,964 shares of its common stock (the “Shares”) to the Gates Foundation at a purchase price per share equal to $1.14 (the “Gates Foundation Investment”) and (ii) a Charitable Purposes Letter Agreement (the “Letter Agreement”), pursuant to which the Company agreed to use the proceeds from the Gates Foundation Investment to develop a yeast strain that produces artemisinic acid and/or amorphadiene at a low cost and to supply such artemisinic acid and amorphadiene to companies qualified to convert artemisinic acid and amorphadiene to artemisinin for inclusion in artemisinin combination therapies used to treat malaria. The entry into the Purchase Agreement and the Letter Agreement was previously reported in the Company’s Current Report on Form 8-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 11, 2016, which is incorporated herein by reference.

On May 10, 2016, the Company and the Gates Foundation closed the Gates Foundation Investment, resulting in the issuance of 4,385,964 Shares to the Gates Foundation for proceeds to the Company of approximately $5.0 million.

In other words, Gates is paying the company to deliver the same product he originally funded Keasling and his students to develop.

And the earth below: San Francisco Bay


From NASA’s Earth Observatory, a look at San Francisco Bay at night, with the nocturnal lights of San Jose on the lower left, and the cities of Stockton and Modesto captured by the larger masses of light toward the right of the image:

Astronaut photograph ISS037-E-2604 was acquired on September 25, 2013, with a Nikon D3S digital camera using a 50 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 37 crew. It has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by William L. Stefanov, Jacobs at NASA-JSC.

Astronaut photograph ISS037-E-2604 was acquired on September 25, 2013, with a Nikon D3S digital camera using a 50 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 37 crew. It has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by William L. Stefanov, Jacobs at NASA-JSC.

Batshit crazy: Berkeley may close chem dept.


From Science:

The University of California (UC), Berkeley, is considering disbanding the university’s College of Chemistry to help cope with a cash crunch at one of the country’s most prominent public universities. According to an article in today’s Daily Californian, the university’s flagship campus is $150 million in debt, and faced with flat income from tuition and rising costs. Though no decisions have been made, closing the College of Chemistry and absorbing its departments into other university colleges is just one of the many plans being considered to save money.

The College of Chemistry dates back to 1872. Today, it’s home to 101 faculty, as well as 1492 students and postdocs.  Its chemistry and chemical & biomolecular engineering departments are regularly listed among the top worldwide. Thirteen of the college’s faculty and alumni have won Nobel Prizes. And since 1940, College of Chemistry scientists either led or participated in the discovery of more than a dozen humanmade elements, including berkelium, californium, and seaborgium.

Supporters of the college have started a petition asking Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks to scrap the idea of disbanding the school. As of this morning, more than 2250 people have signed the petition. Among the signees is Carolyn Bertozzi, a former Berkeley chemistry professor, who recently moved to Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and posted a comment on the petition’s webpage quipping that the only beneficiaries of the move would be competing institutions.

“UC [Berkeley] College of Chemistry has impacted the chemical sciences, indeed the world, more than any counterpart at any other institution. Dismantling this paragon of excellence is only a good idea if you are at Stanford!” Bertozzi wrote.

Apparently they’re not a profit center, or trendy like, say Jay Keasling, the “bioengineer” who promised us cheap, clean-burning fuel from genetically engineered intestinal bacteria and gave us only a company that pitches cosmetics on Home Shopping Network.

What more to say?

In other Berkeley news, a headline from the London Daily Mail:

Four women report being drugged at two Berkeley fraternity parties the same weekend as an alleged sexual assault at a third fraternity on campus

  • Two of the students claim they were drugged at the Chi Psi fraternity house and two others say they were drugged at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity
  • A sexual assault was also reported on Friday night at an unnamed fraternity
  • The news comes just weeks after a suspect was implicated for three sexual assaults near People’s Park and the UC Berkley campus