Qteros changes leadership, continues technology development

By Kris Bevill | November 18, 2011

Massachusetts-based cellulosic ethanol technology developer Qteros Inc. has laid off a number of employees, including CEO John McCarthy, but is still operating and continuing to focus on developing its technology platform, according to new CEO Mick Sawka.

Sawka joined Qteros as vice president of commercial development in February 2010 and served most recently as the company’s senior vice president of commercial development and engineering before accepting his new role of CEO on Nov.  15. Sawka was unable to comment on the reasons for the layoffs or the exact number of employees laid off, but said, “All companies follow their own unique paths. Qteros is no exception.”

The basis for Qteros’ consolidated bioprocessing technology platform is the Q microbe, a microorganism that is not only capable of digesting a variety of biomass feedstocks but that also naturally produces ethanol. In January, India-based engineering firm Praj Industries Ltd. signed a strategic partnership with Qteros to commercialize cellulosic ethanol facilities using Qteros technology within the next two years. Sawka said the partnership with Praj is unchanged and the company is still devoted to developing its technology for commercial application. “As far as options, like any company, we’re always looking at how best to maximize return for our shareholders,” he said. Addressing rumors that a sale of the company is eminent, Sawka said a strategic sale is “always an option,” but the company believes that the best way to maximize its shareholders’ return on investment currently is to continue developing its platform.

Financing continues to be an issue for many companies in the cellulosic ethanol sector but it is unclear if financial difficulties played a role in the staff changes at Qteros. Sawka declined to offer details on the current financial state of the company. In the December issue of Ethanol Producer Magazine, Qteros investor and board member Jason Matlof, a partner at venture capital firm Battery Ventures, said he believes Qteros has a chance to be successful as a technology developer. “… you have to figure out a model that works,” he said. “Qteros has done that in that they’re licensing like a biotech company would do to a big pharmaceuticals company.”