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BP Buys Stake in Synthetic Genomics as Part of Bioenergy Deal to Study Hydrocarbon Flora

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — Synthetic Genomics has formed a “long-term” research and development partnership with petroleum firm BP to identify alternative energy sources from subsurface hydrocarbons, Synthetic Genomics said today.
Synthetic Genomics also said the oil company has made an undisclosed equity investment in the privately held biotech, and that the two companies intend to jointly commercialize technologies developed under the partnership.
The research will focus first on microbial communities found in “hydrocarbon formations” such as oil, natural gas, coal, and shale, Synthetic Genomics said.
Synthetic Genomics will perform genomic sequencing and cell-culture studies of the microbial populations living in these environments. The company, founded in 2005 by Craig Venter to create an organism from synthetically crafted and oriented genes, aims to “discover and/or design new genomes that will code for new types of cells with desired properties for bioenergy or specific chemical production.”
Once the basic science research phases are complete, BP and Synthetic Genomics will seek to jointly commercialize the technologies developed, Synthetic Genomics said.
Venter said in a statement that Synthetic Genomics hopes the collaboration “will achieve a new and better understanding of the subsurface hydrocarbon bioconversion process, which we are confident will yield substantial cleaner energy sources."
Tony Meggs, BP’s group vice president of technology, said the partnership “could lead to an unprecedented understanding of the microbial activity in the subsurface; and eventually to the development of more environmentally friendly and efficient energy production and recovery techniques."
"We believe that one of the most promising solutions to producing cleaner fuels will be found through genomic-driven advances," Venter added.

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