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Syngenta and Diversa pursue cellulosic biofuels

January 15, 2007 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 85, Issue 3

Syngenta and Diversa are restructuring a four-year-old R&D collaboration, shifting its focus to the development of enzymes used in the production of biofuels. The two companies signed the original R&D pact in 2003, when Diversa was a high-flying biotech company applying its directed-evolution technology to a wide variety of industrial and health care markets. It called for Syngenta to fund $118 million worth of research at Diversa over seven years. According to Diversa, $35 million of that money remains. More recently, Diversa has scaled back its efforts and is now focused on the development of high-performance enzymes. Under the new agreement, which spans 10 years, Syngenta is committing $16 million in R&D funding over two years. Although that is less than what remains under the old pact, Diversa is now entitled to receive milestones and royalty payments that it says could be substantial. The old collaboration was concerned broadly with genomics for plant science. The new agreement seeks to develop enzymes effective at converting cellulosic biomass into sugars that can be fermented into ethanol or other fuels. Diversa will work to produce the enzymes via fermentation, and Syngenta aims to grow them in transgenic plants.


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