A Sweet Deal

Feedstock company names new investors following ARPA-E announcement
By Erin Voegele | November 21, 2011

A Chicago-based feedstock developer has attracted two new strategic investors; BP Ventures and Unilever Technology Ventures. In late October, Chromatin Inc. announced the completion of a $10 billion first closing round of its Series D financing round. In addition to the two new investors, three investors who participated in earlier financing rounds also participated. Repeat investors included Quantitative Investment Holdings, the Malaysian Life Sciences Capital Fund, and Illinois Ventures.

According to Chromatin, the additional capital will help fund the company’s programs to develop supply chains of energy crop feedstocks. Chromatin is working to develop sorghum varieties that can be used as biorefining or biopower feedstocks. The company is also developing next-generation sorghum seeds using its proprietary crop-breeding technology and biotechnology programs.

Earlier in the month, Chromatin was named as one of 10 companies to receive an award from the U.S. DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) under the Plants Engineered to Replace Oil, or Petro, program. The ARPA-E award will support the company in its efforts to engineer sweet sorghum to produce high-energy molecules in the plant, providing drop-in, low-cost transportation fuel.

Information published by ARPA-E further specifies that the plants will be engineered in a way that allows them to produce up to 20 percent of their biomass as farnesene, which can be converted into renewable diesel. This substance will accumulate in the sorghum plants in much the same way sugar accumulates in sugarcane.

“This investment signals BP's continued commitment to renewable energy feedstocks,” says Justin Adams, head of BP Ventures. “Chromatin is beginning to develop an exciting bioenergy business with their sorghum platform, and we are interested in understanding how we could deploy their feedstock technologies in our own activities.” 

—Erin Voegele