Founded in 2006, Algenol is a young but rapidly developing and sophisticated company that has achieved substantial success in recent years. However, the Company’s origins began decades earlier in 1984 with an idea by Paul Woods, its co-Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, as a university student.
As a genetics student at the University of Western Ontario, Paul Woods invented DIRECT TO ETHANOL® technology in 1984 by enhancing metabolic pathways and overexpressing fermentation pathway enzymes in blue-green algae for the production of ethanol. Over the next decade, Mr. Woods collaborated with Dr. John Coleman and Dr. Ming-de Deng at the University of Toronto to demonstrate proof-of-principle in the laboratory. Drs. Coleman and Deng later joined the Algenol team. This early work culminated in patent filings in 1997 and 1998 and in a scientific publication in Applied and Environmental Microbiology in 1999. US patents for the DIRECT TO ETHANOL® technology were issued in 2001 and 2004, with an Australian patent and European patent following in 2005 and 2007, respectively. Today Algenol’s patent portfolio includes 27 patents with an additional 50 patent applications pending.
Another invention established early in the Company’s history and crucial to its success was the photobioreactor system for cultivating hybrid algae and collecting ethanol. DIRECT TO ETHANOL® technology relies on intracellular production of ethanol, which evaporates, along with water, into the headspace of the enclosed photobioreactor to be collected and purified into fuel-grade ethanol. With the photobioreactors, Mr. Woods and his collaborators succeeded in developing a low-cost and efficient system for producing algae based biofuels without harvesting or killing the algae. In fact, the photobioreactors allow for the initial stages of product creation, separation and collection to be entirely powered by the sun and gravity. This invention led to the filing of a US patent application in 2007 and the issuance of a US patent in 2010 and a Mexican patent in 2011.
Mr. Woods’ early intellectual property ultimately led to the founding of Algenol Biofuels Inc. in 2006 from his home along with biotechnology entrepreneurs Dr. Craig R. Smith, Mr. Edward Legere and Mr. Alejandro Gonzalez. While raising nearly $70 million in 2006 and 2007 from the founders, Algenol began establishing research facilities and collaborations.
In 2006, a molecular biology laboratory was established in Berlin, Germany with a team of cyanobacterial researchers from Humboldt University dedicated to the goal of enhancing the ethanologenic pathways of blue-green algae. This team would found Cyano Biofuels GmbH in 2007, which would later become a wholly owned subsidiary of Algenol.
Also in 2007, Algenol’s first outdoor aquaculture facility began operations in Loxahatchee, FL conducting aquaculture and physiology experiments. As well, molecular biology laboratory was established in Baltimore, MD to complement the research underway in Berlin.
With a $25 million grant from the US Department of Energy awarded in 2009 for a pilot-scale integrated biorefinery and a $10 million economic development incentive grant from Lee County, Florida awarded in 2010, Algenol entered a period of rapid expansion. That expansion started with the construction of a commercial development campus in Fort Myers, FL and the relocation of personnel from Loxahatchee, Baltimore and Atlanta to consolidate our US operations in Southwest Florida. In October 2010, the molecular biology, analytical chemistry and engineering laboratories of our new facility began operations and an outdoor aquaculture process development unit began operations shortly thereafter in February 2011.
After raising an additional $90 million in private financing in the summer of 2011, Algenol entered a second period of rapid expansion and hiring, primarily to support the construction of its pilot-scale integrated biorefinery. The integrated biorefinery will be the first large-scale deployment of Algenol’s patented DIRECT TO ETHANOL® technology.