ExxonMobil, genome genius Craig Venter sign on for algae-fuel race

Craig Venter, the cowboy/geneticist/genius responsible for souping up the race to decode the human genome, has lately been trying to figure out ways to turn algae into mini oil gushers. Solving that conundrum -- producing cheap fuel -- would give him the rare distinction of having conquered two of the Modern Era's greatest scientific problems.

Apparently, his intense efforts to draw alternative fuels from green soup are paying off. Yesterday, the outspoken Venter got a huge vote of confidence from oil giant ExxonMobil (XOM), which signed a multiyear R&D agreement with Venter's Synthetic Genomics (SGI). The deal is one of the largest to date for the nascent algae biofuels segment. Exxon agreed to invest $600 million with Venter in algae biofuel programs, including $300 million in SGI itself.