If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.


Biological Chemistry

Founders Revive ‘One-step’ Biofuel Firm Qteros

Technology for single-step cellulosic ethanol gets a second chance

by Melody M. Bomgardner
January 7, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 1

When biofuels start-up Qteros closed its doors and auctioned its fermentation tanks last year, it looked like the end of the line for the Q Microbe, an organism that digests cellulosic biomass and ferments the resulting sugar into ethanol. But three of the founders of Qteros have won back rights to the technology and plan to revive the company.

Stephan Rogers, who served as chief operating officer when the company began in 2007, is now CEO. “Having examined all the research, we now see an immediate pathway to commercialization with the current technology,” Rogers says. He adds that the new version of Qteros will pursue a less capital-intensive business model and rely more on partnerships.

In its first incarnation, Qteros built a pilot facility in Chicopee, Mass., but fell short of raising the investment needed for commercial deployment. It shut down in January 2012 amid layoffs and the firing of CEO John A. McCarthy.

The reborn company will still focus on the Q Microbe, and it has relicensed intellectual property related to the organism from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The microbe was discovered by Susan B. Leschine, a microbiologist at the university. Qteros has control of intellectual property for all microbial strains, research data, and products generated by the Q Microbe, including chemicals.

The firm’s planned revival comes as several companies, including Abengoa, Beta Renewables, Fiberight, and Poet-DSM, get ready to start commercial cellulosic ethanol facilities. These large-scale plants first break down biomass into sugars, then produce ethanol via fermentation. The promise of the Q Microbe is to carry out this transformation in a single step.


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.