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UMass Amherst Spinoff Raises $25 Million for Ethanol Breakthrough

SunEthanol, a spinoff company from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has raised $25 million in financing and is changing its name to Qteros, which refers to its Q Microbe technology for producing sustainable liquid fuel from non-food plants and wastes.

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SunEthanol, a spinoff company from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has raised $25 million in Series B financing from a consortium of funders including BP and Soros Fund Management LLC, and is changing its name effective immediately to Qteros. The new name refers to its Q Microbe™ technology for producing sustainable liquid fuel from non-food plants and wastes.
 
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick announced Qteros’ new name and Series B funding in a speech Nov. 18 in Boston at the Fourth Conference on Clean Energy during Clean Energy Week in Massachusetts. Qteros has been singled out as one of the state’s premier clean-tech companies.
 
The biofuels startup that began with UMass Amherst microbiology Professor Susan Leschine's discovery in the woods of Massachusetts of an exceptionally efficient microbe for making cellulosic ethanol will now scale up its process from the pilot plant to commercial operations, and hire additional engineers and scientists, company officials said.
 
Gov. Patrick has been a staunch supporter of the company, describing it as discovering and now commercializing a “transformational breakthrough.” Other state and national leaders have also recognized Qteros this year as one of the most promising emerging clean energy companies, and it has received four U.S. Department of Energy grants and a grant from the National Science Foundation.
 
“Qteros and the Q Microbe™ will make a major contribution to achieving the two-pronged objective of energy independence and reduced emissions of global warming gases,” said company President and CEO Bill Frey, who spent 28 years at DuPont and led DuPont’s biofuels division before taking the reins of SunEthanol in June.
 
Congress has mandated production of 36 billion gallons a year of biofuels — 16 billion gallons of which must be advanced cellulosic biofuels such as Qteros is working to produce. That would figure prominently in President-elect Obama's plan to reduce or eliminate America's dependence on foreign fossil fuels by investing $150 billion in clean energy technology over 10 years. Qteros is poised to be a key contributor to realizing that goal.
 
Leschine, Qteros’ Chief Scientist and co-founder, is the UMass Amherst professor who, nearly 10 years ago, first collected a sample of the Q Microbe™ near the Quabbin Reservoir in Massachusetts. She sees the company's success as the realization of her dream of finding a “super-bug” that can leapfrog the conventional enzyme technologies in terms of cost/benefit, and help solve the world's energy crisis.
 
Led by Sarad Parekh, vice president of R&D, the Qteros lab team has already achieved an over 15-fold increase in productivity with its C3 (Complete Cellulosic Conversion) technology platform for using the Q Microbe™ to convert cellulosic plant material to ethanol.
 
Source: University of Massachusetts Amherst