Versatile microbe set for big success


BIOFUELSPROFITING FROM WASTE: OIL GIANT BP and billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros are funding the development of a technology that will cheaply convert corn and sugar cane husks, wood and grass into biofuel and which could address the previous criticism of biofuel - that it prevents crops from being used as foodstuff, reports JOHN REYNOLDS

By selective breeding of a microorganism called the "Q Microbe", Massachusetts-based Qteros hopes that it will be able to build its own pilot facility to make biofuel from waste from ethanol production and other agricultural processes.

The company then hopes to license its proprietary organism to owners of ethanol and other biofuel plants, many of which operate on very small profit margins. The Q Microbe's key feature is that it has an unusual ability to dynamically adjust to the type of matter it is processing, meaning that having to patch together the useful parts of different organisms can be done through the more conventional method of selective breeding.

Director Jason Matlof, who has also invested in the company, says it will only need about $30 million to (€23.3 million) up to $50 million (€39 million) to reach its objectives. BP and Soros, through his Quantum Group of hedge funds and their advisers Soros Fund Management, have invested $25 million (€19 million) in Qteros, bringing its funding to date to $29 million (€23 million).