Biotech pros press algae into biodiesel production

Berkeley spinoff Aurora Biofuels lands $20 million in series A funding for algae aquaculture venture.

Algae, it seems, is the new darling of the biofuels world. Aurora BioFuels on Tuesday announced that it has raised $20 million to build open-pond algae farms to make bio-oil.

It's one of several funding announcements from start-ups looking to make algae a commercially viable alternative to soy, canola, or fry grease to make fuel for diesel vehicles.

An algae farm. U.S. Department of Energy

Aurora BioFuels, started by University of California at Berkeley students, has a process that it says can create biodiesel at yields that are 125 times higher and have 50 percent lower costs than today's production methods.

The company intends to commercialize technology developed at Berkeley by microbial biology professor and hydrogen fuel expert Tasios Melis who has developed bioreacators for hydrocarbon and hydrogen production from algae.

Aurora BioFuels' management has worked in pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and biofuels.

The $20 million series A round was led by Oak Investment Partners with previous investors Gabriel Venture Partners and Noventi participating.

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