Novo’s ExtravaLanza — $72M investment in LanzaTech as the world’s top purveyors of the very finest in second chance carbon continue to expand

August 6, 2019 |

From Chicago and also Copenhagen arrives the pleasant news that Novo Holdings is making a $72 million investment in LanzaTech’s Series E financing, and Senior Director Anders Bendsen Spohr will join the LanzaTech board. Novo — the parent of both Novo Norsk and Novozymes — is best known for making investments in the therapeutics and pharma side of the bioeconomy.

In this case, the therapy target is the world itself, sick with what you might call a bad case of carbonosis, an excess of atmospheric carbon. The cure? Recycle and re-use available carbon. Think of it, just using every carbon molecule twice is like reducing carbon usage by half. Use carbon a third time, that’s like reducing usage by two-thirds.

We’re in a consumer shift from single-use carbon. OK, dropping single use straws and single use plastic shopping bags are more of a consumer stunt than a serious attack on single-use plastics, but they’re a great start. And single-uses like venting the off-gases from steel production — that’s something with vastly more heft in the single-use remedy department. But it’s all part of the same movement.

LanzaTech has trademarked its phrase describing approach to bioeconomy, but it’s two words, first word is Carbon, second word, one syllable, rhymes with heart and means intelligent. Intelligence with heart, that’s what it is when you get right down to it, taking action on carbon.

We wonder just how long LanzaTech is going to remain in a world of ethanol as a fuel before it branches more substantively into the world of chemicals. You can make a lot of interesting stuff from ethanol, including the world’s most popular bulk chemical, ethylene.

Watch that one, ethylene from waste carbon, that is. It’s the kind of play that makes you think of the outstanding 80s rock group They Might Be Giants.

What other exotic molecules might they chase? Worth noting that two recent investors into LanzaTech are BASF and Novo; neither one has fuels on page one under “targets of interest”. So, we’ll stand by.

Here’s what Novo had to say about it all:

The transaction underlines Novo Holdings’ increasing focus on investing in market-leading bio-industrial companies with the ability to have a long-term sustainable impact on society through innovative technologies.

Additionally, the investment in LanzaTech marks Novo Holdings’ fourth investment within the growth equity area this year. Growth equity investments enable Novo Holdings to support companies at the forefront of transformative technologies, fueling transitions that will take companies to the next level of development.

Novo Holdings’ investment will expand LanzaTech’s carbon recycling platform and enable LanzaTech to accelerate the commercialization of Carbon Smart products allowing consumers to choose where the carbon in their products comes from, recycled carbon or fossil carbon.

Reaction from the stakeholders

Anders Bendsen Spohr, Senior Director at Novo Holdings, says: “LanzaTech is addressing our collective need for sustainable fuels and materials, enabling industrial players to be part of building a truly circular economy. Novo Holdings’ investment underlines our commitment to supporting the bio-industrials sector and, in particular, companies that are developing cutting-edge technology platforms. We are excited to work with the LanzaTech team and look forward to supporting the company in its next phase of growth.”

Jennifer Holmgren, Chief Executive Officer of LanzaTech, commented: “We are delighted with the investment from Novo Holdings, a visionary company and team focused on creating long-term value while making a positive impact. This comes at a critical time for the health of our planet. We no longer need to debate whether climate change is real. We need to mobilize all sustainable solutions to create a future free of carbon pollution.”

The Bottom Line

Could be might be maybe that LanzaTech’s product application set is about to get a whole lot broader, and even more interesting than its estimable forays into fuel ethanol and sustainable aviation fuels. Just to lay down a marker, wouldn’t it be interesting if someone found a way to make single-cell proteins out of steel mill off-gases. Now, that would be the iron-fortified diet for the ages — and a reversal of the story of food waste to food from waste.

We’re getting well ahead of the story so we’ll stop there, and pause at the wonder of it all. Novo investing in industrial-scale biotech — what a wonder to behold.

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