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On Life Support, Cash-Strapped Amyris Files for Bankruptcy

Published August 10, 2023
Published August 10, 2023

Following the resignation of longtime President and CEO John Melo, the dominoes continue to fall at Amyris. The week began with the news of the closure of Onda Beauty, Costa Brazil and Purcane and the termination of 260 positions. 

Seeking Alpha reported the cash-strapped biotech company received a lifeline over the past several months from its largest shareholder and creditor John Doerr with another $157.5 million in secured debt financing, increasing his total secured debt holdings to $290 million. He currently controls approximately 30.8% of Amyris outstanding common stock.

The departure of Melo at the end of June came with an announcement that the company engaged the Business Recovery Services unit of PricewaterhouseCoopers to guide its transformation efforts. The process was initiated to deliver approximately $250 million fit-to-win cost actions. This effort includes optimizing the costs of goods sold, reducing operating expenses, and streamlining the business portfolio.

As part of that process, the week ended with the news that Amyris commenced voluntary Chapter 11 to finalize a consensual go-forward plan for its core business. Amyris has also secured a commitment from an entity affiliated with existing lender Foris Ventures for $190 million of debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing to support continued day-to-day operations. Subject to court approval and the DIP budget, this DIP financing will provide liquidity to help fulfill commitments to employees, customers, partners, and vendors during the process.

"Since its founding 20 years ago, Amyris has been a pioneer in the development of ingredients made with synthetic biology and has enjoyed great commercial success, particularly as a result of our innovative Lab-to-Market technology platform, proven ability to rapidly bring new products to market, and state-of-the-art science and manufacturing infrastructure," said Han Kieftenbeld, Interim Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer of Amyris. "Over the past months, we have been hard at work on a strategic transformation plan to reduce costs, improve operational effectiveness, and achieve sustainable growth. We believe the step forward our company has taken today puts us on the best path to address our financial challenges and achieve a comprehensive solution—rooted in Amyris' ground-breaking science, formulation capabilities, and technology."

Mr. Kieftenbeld added, "Our aspiration to become the most efficient and productive biotechnology company in our industry has not changed. We remain incredibly excited about Amyris' long-term potential and our uniquely talented team's proven ability to deliver on the promise of synthetic biology and continue to make a lasting impact. At the end of this restructuring process, we believe that Amyris will emerge as a financially stronger company with a more focused business model and well-defined path to profitability. In turn, we will be poised to grow sustainably alongside our valued partners and make an even greater impact on our world through clean chemistry."

In tandem, to advance restructuring goals and maximize the value of its assets, Amyris is planning to exit its consumer brands and will begin marketing them for sale. The goal will be that a new owner continue to leverage Amyris' cutting-edge science and technology. Amyris will continue to operate these brands throughout the sale process.

Transaction and Brand Incubation Timeline 

As part of a strategy to establish Amyris as what Melo referred to as “The L’Oréal of clean beauty,” the company shifted focus from the ingredients business and initiated an acquisition and incubation spree. Now this portfolio is on the block.

January 2023: 4U by TiaTM, a haircare line developed with actress and entrepreneur Tia Mowry, launched with a Walmart exclusive in 2,800 stores. 

February 2023: Givaudan acquired cosmetic ingredients from Amyris, including Neossance Squalane, Neossance Hemisqualane, and CleanScreen, for $200 million cash and $150 million in earnouts.

October 2022: Stripes, a (peri)menopausal wellness brand founded in partnership with actress, entrepreneur, and activist Naomi Watts, launched.

April 2022: Amyris made its first retail acquisition, snapping up Onda Beauty co-founded by Larissa Thompson, Sarah Bryden-Brown, and actress Naomi Watts with two stores in Tribeca and Sag Harbor. The brand is being shutdown. 

January 2022: Amyris acquired the assets of MenoLabs, a subscription-based and Amazon-first business focused on addressing perimenopause and menopause symptoms founded by Danielle Jacobs, Vanessa Ford, and John P. Konhilas, PhD, an Associate Professor with the Department of Physiology and Sarver Molecular Cardiovascular Research at the University of Arizona.

February 2021: Amyris acquired Terasana, a beauty brand focused on sustainably sourced natural cannabinoids. This year the brand has been quietly winding down.

March 2021: Amyris acquired Costa Brazil, the clean beauty concept launched in 2018. Founder Francisco Costa became the Chief Creative Officer of Amyris.  The brand is being shutdown. 

April 2021: Amyris acquired a 70% stake in Gen Z–focused brand EcoFabulous, founded by Marissa Shipman. After an overhaul, the brand relaunched with affordable makeup and skincare in October 2022 and has recently been quietly shutdown.

April 2021: Amyris acquired Beauty Labs, an employee-owned technology company that pioneers the future of enhanced reality in beauty and wellness.

June 2021: Amyris acquired Olika, founded in 2017, transforming the hygiene category through transparency and safe ingredients packaged in beautiful, nature-inspired design.

August 2021: JVN Hair launched as a collaboration between Amyris and Jonathan Van Ness: hair stylist, Emmy-nominated television personality, New York Times best-selling author, and podcaster.

August 2021: Amyris and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley's Rose Inc. brand collaborated on a clean makeup range leveraging the success of Huntington-Whiteley's digital community, Rose Inc., which brings together beauty professionals and conscious beauty enthusiasts.

September 2019: Amyris incubated Pipette a clean personal care brand for babies and moms with their proprietary sugarcane-derived squalane as the hero ingredient. 

2016: Amyris launched Biossance, its first brand based on the company's plant-based squalane, derived sustainably from sugarcane The brand launched in Sephora in 2017 and has been the crown jewel of the consumer portfolio.

The company has always struggled with profitability. The changing beauty landscape and growing operational costs created an unsurmountable liquidity crunch.


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