OPX Raises $3.6M in Venture Funding and Appoints Robert Chess Chairman and CEO
News Dec 11, 2007
OPX Biotechnologies, Inc., a new company dedicated to enabling economically viable biofuels and biorefined chemicals, has announced that it has secured $3.6 million in venture funding led by MDV -- Mohr Davidow Ventures (Menlo Park, Calif.). OPX also appointed Robert B. Chess as Chairman and CEO and established its board of directors.
"OPX has the potential to address one of the great challenges of our time -- meeting the tremendous demand for renewable fuels and chemicals that are cost competitive and superior to petroleum-based products with far lower carbon emissions. Their proprietary, first of its kind massively parallel, full genome search and gene modification technology platform is a major breakthrough in synthetic biology that could vastly reduce the time it takes to design the microbes needed for economically viable biofuels and biorefined chemicals," said Erik Straser, MDV general partner.
"We are pleased that Mohr Davidow Ventures, a major Silicon Valley venture firm and one of the top investors in the clean technology field,and X/Seed Capital, a leading seed stage venture firm, recognize the potential of OPX and are actively working with us to build OPX into a major player in the biofuels and biorefined chemicals arena," said Robert Chess, Chairman and CEO of OPX.
Mr. Chess continued, "Using our proprietary SCALEs technology to rapidly find and modify causative genes, OPX can identify the role of each gene and how to modify it to achieve the characteristics needed for specific fuel and chemical products 1000 to 5000 times faster than conventional methods.
The result is to quickly engineer new microbes that can provide major improvements in tolerance, productivity, and specificity for fuel and chemical production. By making the production of biofuels and chemicals more efficient, our technology has the promise to remove a significant barrier to the use of renewable sources of energy as an alternative to petroleum-based products."
MDV led this second round of financing with X/Seed Capital and Rob Chess also participating. OPX received seed financing from X/Seed in June, 2007.
OPX also appointed Rob Chess Chairman and CEO. He also serves as Chairman of Nektar Therapeutics, a company that develops improved pharmaceutical products using its innovative drug delivery platforms. Mr. Chess joined Nektar in 1991 as its first non-founder employee, and was the company's CEO through 1999. Since 1999, he has served as Nektar's Chairman and was also the acting CEO in 2006.
Mr. Chess was previously the co-Founder and President of Penederm, Inc., a publicly-traded dermatological pharmaceutical company that was sold to Mylan Laboratories. He has held management positions at Intel Corporation and Metaphor Computer Systems (now part of IBM), and was a member of the first President Bush's White House staff.
Mr. Chess serves on the Board of Directors of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), the Board of Trustees of the California Institute of Technology and on the boards of several other non-profit and for-profit organizations. Mr. Chess received his B.S. degree in Engineering from the California Institute of Technology and an M.B.A. from Harvard.
"We are delighted that Rob has agreed to lead OPX during its start-up phase. He has an outstanding track record of success in building private and public technology-based companies in multiple industries. It speaks volumes for the potential of OPX that Rob has joined the company," said Michael Borrus, managing partner of X/Seed Capital.
The OPX Board of Directors includes MDV's Erik Straser, X/Seed's Michael Borrus, Professor Ryan Gill, a co-founder of the company and the Patten Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at University of Colorado, and Rob Chess as Chairman and CEO.