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Editorial: Good science makes another run at the market thanks to Qteros

Earlier this year, promising biofuels startup Qteros – a company that had its origins in research done at the University of Massachusetts – faced a major setback when investment capital dried up.

Without adequate funding, Qteros was forced to close a fermentation facility in Chicopee – and with it, the promise of new jobs. Qteros, was created to market the potential of the “Q Microbe,” discovered by a team of UMass researchers led by microbiologist Susan B. Leschine. The microbe, found in the early 1900s around the Quabbin Reservoir, has the ability to digest plant waste into ethanol fuel.

A great discovery, but developing markets for a new technology can be painstakingly slow.

Still, good science is good science and just a little more than six months later, Qteros is making a comeback.

The company, once known as Sun Ethanol, raised $52 million in start-up money from investors including Soros Fund Management LLC, Valero Engorge Corp. and BP. In early 2012 , the money dried up; creditors auctioned Qteros’ pilot facility in Chicopee.

Enter Stephan Rogers of Amherst, an official with old Qteros and the CEO of a new company that has purchased the technology from creditors of the old company.

Rogers now has the license form UMass to use the Q Microbe and is looking to revitalize the company.

Rogers hopes to raise $3 million to $5 million to get the new Qteros off the ground.

The road to commercial marketability is often long and arduous – just like the science on which products are based. We’re pleased that the work continues and that Qteros is making a comeback.

As Rogers said, “We are charged with creating a benefit to society. We have to get innovation out there to the world.”

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