Khosla Ventures, Burrill & Co. invest in cellulosic conversion company

By Hope Deutscher | June 03, 2009
Report posted June 3, 2009, at 2:55 p.m. CST

Khosla Ventures and Burrill & Co., two U.S. venture capital funds, recently announced they are investing in HCL CleanTech to further development of converting cellulosic materials into low cost fermentable sugars.

HCL CleanTech, a technology development company based in the U.S. with an Israeli subsidiary, was cofounded by Israeli industrial chemical research scientists Professor Avraham Baniel and Professor Ari Eyal. The company has developed a proprietary technology to convert lignocellulosic biomass to fermentable sugars, which are considered the gateway to advanced biofuels and biochemicals. The process in an old, industrially proven German one, but with modern chemical technology the implementation is straightforward and immediate. HCL CleanTech efficiently uses concentrated hydrochloric acid to hydrolyze all cellulosic materials, allowing a large variety of feedstocks to be used with minimal configuration. It also requires minimal water and is energetically self-sufficient.

"Accessing cheap sugar locked in biomass is one of the greatest challenges now faced by those pursuing renewable fuels and chemicals," said Greg Young, director of Burrill & Co. "HCL CleanTech's technology represents a step change in accessing these sugars, and drops into the pretreatment step of any fermentation-based process or chemical reforming technique which starts with oligosaccharides. We are eager to see this proven at scale, at which point it becomes immediately relevant to adjacent industries aiming to use biomass as a feedstock."

Burrill & Co. is a life sciences merchant bank focused on a companies involved in a variety of industries, including biotechnology, industrial (biomaterials/bioprocess) and agricultural biotechnology. California-based Khosla Ventures helps entrepreneurs extend the potential of their ideas in a variety of clean technology areas, including solar, battery, high efficiency engines, lighting, greener materials like cement, glass and bio-refineries for energy and bioplastics.

Zohar Gilon, the lead seed investor, along with the company's founders joined Burrill & Co. and Khosla Ventures in the Series A round of financing. The proceeds will be used to continue research and development efforts in Israel and to build a pilot plant in the U.S., which the company said it expects to be completed in 2010.