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Biofuels technology is latest example of UCLA spurring economic growth


A company that is commercializing a next-generation biofuels platform and has licensed intellectual property co-developed by a preeminent UCLA professor recently completed a $107 million initial public offering.

“It is very encouraging to my students and postdocs that something we discovered in the lab can contribute to the real world within a few short years,” said James C. Liao, the Chancellor’s Professor and vice chair of the department of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Liao co-developed a method for using E. coli bacteria to produce biofuels, a technique that could lead to high-yield, renewable alternatives to fossil fuels. Liao’s UCLA colleagues on this project were then-postdoctoral fellow Shota Atsumi and then–visiting professor Taizo Hanai. The technology was licensed in December 2007 from UCLA by Gevo Inc., currently based in Englewood, Colo. Shares of Gevo’s February 2011 nine-figure IPO sold at the high end of the estimated price range.