Sapphire Energy will reportedly partner with the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB) to bring systems biology solutions to the development of algae biofuels, an effort that is expected to significantly increase oil yield and improve resistance to crop predators and environmental factors. Sapphire produces algae crude oil, known as Green Crude, a renewable, low-carbon product that can be refined and used as diesel and jet fuel. According to an ISB spokesperson, “Sapphire is dealing with one of the most complicated problems known to humans: how to make fuel from a renewable resource. Together, we have complementary expertise that will allow us to understand, reverse engineer and rationally alter the gene networks for fuel production in algae.”
Sapphire Chief Science Officer Alex Aravanis said, “By working with ISB to apply their systems biology approach, we’re able to more rapidly identify genes and regulatory pathways that can increase yield and move us toward our goal of making Green Crude a market viable, crude oil alternative.” Sapphire has evidently begun operating a 300-acre commercial demonstration farm and bio-refinery in New Mexico in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy. The facility is expected to produce some 100 barrels of Green Crude per day and will be completed by the end of 2014. The company also operates a 22-acre research and development facility from which a pilot project produced jet fuel for the earliest flights using algae-derived jet fuel. See Sapphire Energy Press Release, November 1, 2012.