Two teenagers arrived at Emory University in Atlanta as freshmen in 1989, and within days, they hit upon a ?delusional? idea: starting a biotech company. Two decades later, it?s become a lot less delusional, as Jonathan Wolfson and Harrison Dillon have built South San Francisco-based Solazyme into one of the nation?s leading contenders in the race to create renewable biofuels.|
?The first day I met him, we?re sitting in a dorm room, I asked him what he wanted to do,? says Wolfson, Solazyme?s CEO. ?He said, ?I want to be a geneticist.? I said, ?I actually just wanted to know what you want to do tonight,??maybe we?d go get some beers, find some impressionable women. I guess the die was cast right then.?
The two struck up an enduring friendship, then went their separate ways on career paths in business and science. They reunited in 2003 to start Solazyme, with what was then a truly outlandish-sounding vision of using fast-dividing, super-efficient algae to produce renewable fuels.
Seven years later, they have developed a process that can convert cellulosic biomass like sugarcane, with the help of algae as a middleman, into renewable fuels like diesel and jet fuel.
Wolfson and Dillon have turned their once-delusional vision into an organization with 90 full-time employees that has active partnerships with big oil and consumer product players like Chevron and Unilever.
It has signed a couple of contracts to supply renewable diesel to the biggest customer on the planet?the U.S. Department of Defense.
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