(USA)

Synthetic Genomics and ExxonMobil are to step up their joint efforts to develop oil from algae.

The pair announced today that they have extended their agreement to conduct joint research into advanced algae biofuels after making significant progress in understanding algae genetics, growth characteristics and increasing oil production.

They have been jointly researching and developing oil from algae for use as a renewable, lower-emission alternative to traditional transportation fuels since launching the program in 2009. Work will continue towards developing strains of algae that demonstrate significantly improved photosynthetic efficiency and oil production through selection and genetic engineering of higher-performance algae strains. The agreement continues to focus on Synthetic Genomics’ core strengths in synthetic biology and builds on recent discoveries of biological pathways regulating lipid production and growth in advanced algal strains.

“Together with ExxonMobil, we have made significant strides to identify and enhance algal strains capable of high oil production while still maintaining desirable rates of growth,” said Oliver Fetzer, Ph.D., chief executive officer of Synthetic Genomics. “The extension of our agreement reflects the tremendous progress made to date, and the promise in using our core synthetic biology technologies to build cell production systems capable of reshaping industries.”

Vijay Swarup, vice president for research and development at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company said: “Synthetic Genomics and ExxonMobil remain committed to advancing the scientific fundamentals of algal biofuels. We know this will be a long-term endeavor and are optimistic based on the results we have seen to date.”

The development of algae biofuels and a path toward commercial-scale production remain key components of ExxonMobil’s suite of research projects focused on producing energy to meet global demand while reducing greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate the risk of climate change.