Matrix Genetics Snags Investment from Avista for Algae Biofuel

Xconomy Seattle — 

Matrix Genetics is pursuing the dream of turning algae into the workhorses of oil production, and now it has gotten some financing to go after it.

The Seattle-based startup, led by Margaret McCormick, said today it has secured an investment from Avista Development, the venture arm of Spokane, WA-based energy company Avista (NYSE: AVA). The amount of the investment isn’t being disclosed, but it’s enough for Matrix to spin out of its parent company, Targeted Growth, and to find new labs in South Lake Union with room for about 15 employees. Seattle-based Targeted Growth remains the majority owner of Matrix Genetics, although it is in discussions about that stake with strategic partners and investors, says John Williams, a spokesman for Matrix.

Matrix, which I first profiled here in May 2011, had a goal at that time of raising $10 million to $15 million, according to McCormick. The company is focusing on cyanobacteria, a simple and abundant form of algae that can use energy from the sun to turn carbon dioxide into oils. The hope is that fast-dividing algae like these will make for a more efficient source of fuel than corn-based ethanol or other plant-based raw materials. This quest puts Matrix in competition with some well-financed competitors like Synthetic Genomics and Sapphire Energy.

“We appreciate the need to find alternatives to petroleum for a sustainable future, and we are excited by the progress and the promise of Matrix’s approach,” said Roger Woodworth, vice president and chief strategy officer at Avista, in a statement.

For more on the company, see a story in today’s Seattle Times.