Applications for San Francisco (Batch 12) extended through September 15th, 2021!

Carbix: Turning CO2 into Stone

To meet the challenge of our climate crisis requires humanity to reinvent industries on a global scale. Eliminating emissions as fast as possible is critical, and it has become clear we also need to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere, as well as prevent more from collecting. As we do this a new question emerges, where do we put it? Carbix is working on a solution for long-term carbon storage while simultaneously decarbonizing cement, a notoriously hard to clean up industry. I sat down with Quincy, their CEO, to find out how.

 Enhanced Weathering is a term that more and more people are learning about as climate science goes mainstream, yet its geological nature feels so distant to human timescales. How are you learning from nature to take on the challenge of producing carbon negative cement?

 Nature has perfected the capture of CO2, but over timescales that are far beyond the urgency of humanity’s climate crisis. We know from extensively studying the natural carbonation cycle of minerals like calcium silicates and olivine that certain conditions must co-exist in order for CO2 to turn to stone. At Carbix, we have distilled this biological process to engineering parameters optimizing heat, pressure, mixing rate, UV-C and CO2 injection.

We don’t have to pipe CO2 underground near hydrothermal veins to achieve optimal heat and pressure for carbonation. To further speed up the process we learned from the chemistry of the upper atmosphere that UV-C light energy can enhance carbonation reactions at lower pressures than what may be possible on Earth. The Big Reactor in the Sky (Sun + upper atmosphere) has taught us the role that UV-C light plays in generating hydroxyl radicals (OH) to accelerate the carbonation process.

Our X1 reactor has been designed from day one to give us control of these key variables.

 Can you tell us about the X1? What does it look like to potentially deploy in the world to meet the incredible scale of construction?

The X1 reactor scales up to about 150m3 (cubic meters) to meet the demand of the cement and concrete industry. In operation we need a few inputs. Certain minerals, like olivine, have the greatest carbon sequestration potential so we’ll be finding sources with the smallest carbon footprint possible to ship in. The other critical input is CO2, which we can get by partnering with direct air capture (DAC) technologies or at lower concentrations through direct smokestack effluent. While effluent has lower CO2 concentrations, it actually is still a good feedstock since we then forgo DAC costs and capture other pollutants which otherwise end up in our air and lungs. We also will need energy and water, which we hope to get from renewable sources and lower costs with water recirculation and energy recovery devices.

 Ooh sounds sci-fi!

The X1 reactor looks like something out of an “Alien” movie series so I guess that makes it Alien tech hahah.

The design keeps in mind that size and speed matters when it comes to tackling the emissions from cement making, which accounts for up to 8–10% of GHG global emissions! It’s a huge climate issue, and a huge market as cement and concrete products are a nearly $330B annual global market. The use of concrete, as well as heavy CO2 emitters, are distributed across the globe so the X1 can be deployed as a single unit or scaled to multiple to match the rate of emissions or concrete production needed.

 You’re a young company, yet already in deep conversations with large companies about working together. Can you share more about the appetite in industry for climate solutions?

 The interest is strong from the industry to reduce their GHG footprints. The public and private incentives are expanding but already moving the industry in our direction. The US and other major governments have incentives through the 45-Q and LCFS standard (California) to help pull the industry in. The call to action — in a country like Japan for example, are mandates that require cement companies to reduce their GHG footprint by 30% by 2030, no exceptions.

These incentives are important because the scale we’re talking about is so big. One potential customer, Dangote-West Africa as the example, processes nearly 6000 metric tons per day of clinker at one plant!. That’s an annual rate of nearly 2.0Mt (megatons). Other cement plants have production rates of about half that at 1MM(megaton per year), like Mitsubishi.

We’re in talks and even sharing ideas on which product makes sense to pilot. Dangote proposed the idea of creating tiles with carbon negative carbonates and oxides so that every one of their customers can buy carbon negative products. Imagine that — individuals and businesses can beautify their homes and offices and become climate champions while effortlessly installing tiles. We think it’s an amazing idea as it lets consumers vote with their dollars to act on climate change.

 Finally, tell us about yourself and your team. What inspires you all to work on this problem?

 We’re all passionate about protecting our natural environment (and the humans in it) and have been so for most of our lives. It’s an internal drive. We’re also technologists. So for us the pathway to healing the plant comes through technology, like the X1 reactor. Inspiration to take this direct path to removing CO2 from the atmosphere and creating products like cement and concrete is driven in part by the scale of impact we can make. What we’re doing works in parallel with the transition to a clean energy infrastructure by giving the planet some “breathing room“ until the transition is complete.

Myself, I have over 10 years in clean energy design engineering, with a previous finance background. Dr. Vintit Dighe has also been in the cleantech space. He is an expert in fluid dynamics, wind energy, and machine learning. He‘s developing fluid and chemistry solvers to guide enhancements to the X1 reactor kinetics. Samip Desai has a clean energy and finance background in cleantech and is actively working in business development to bring in multinational cement and concrete ready mix producers.

 

Reazent: Powering Organic Agriculture

Despite the demand from consumers and environmental benefit, organic agriculture accounts for less than 2% of global agricultural land. Reazent is on a mission to change this by providing biologic products to supercharge plant growth and crop yields. Despite being a young company, they extensive field trials showing the benefit and consistency of their product, with more planned for late 2020 and early 2021. I caught up with Sumit Verma, their CEO, to learn more about their progress and the state of the industry.

CEO and co-founder, Sumit Verma

Alex: What inspired you to start Reazent, and what was the genesis of your idea?

Sumit: I worked in the chemicals industry for over a decade, and as an insider I encountered first hand some of the biggest challenges the industry faced. Companies grappled with how to reduce the carbon and toxicological footprint of the materials that consumers, industrials, and agriculture use, while retaining their effectiveness and performance. This problem was most evident in agriculture.

Agriculture directly affects human and planetary health, so sustainable agriculture — one that employs organic alternatives rather than synthetic petroleum-based ag-inputs — is beneficial for everyone. However, we learned farmers don’t want to adopt organic alternatives and organic agriculture because they consider it inefficient and leads to reduced income. My scientist colleagues and I had a shared passion to change this. While I was seeing this problem from a practitioner’s point of view, my scientist colleagues were working on developing sustainable alternatives for field applications.

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Quote from Earl Butz, US Secretary of Agriculture in 1971

Alex: So how are you replacing chemical ag-inputs?

Sumit: Reazent has developed a patented technology to increase crop yield and control plant pathogens in a wide range of crops such as soybean, peanuts, wheat, kale, and lettuce. Our approach is based on the effect of metabolites produced by soil bacteria. These metabolites up-regulate plant defense and root growth genes, as well as other members of the soil microbiome who in turn produce metabolites which help the crop.

We learned how to do this by studying unique genomic loci present in certain bacterial strains which increase the range and quantity of metabolites produced. We have over one hundred uniquely genotyped strains and hence we can create plant growth and disease control effects in many crops critical to the global agricultural supply chain.

Alex: You’ve been running field studies this year in several crops, tell us about what you’ve found.

Sumit: We have demonstrated the efficacy of our product in increasing both crop yield as well as plant pathogen control in bench-scale, greenhouse, and field scale trials in legume crops such as soybean and peanuts. The results we have obtained so far are fantastic — up to 400% increase in soybean root nodules, up to 30% increase in peanuts above-ground biomass, and up to 35% increase in peanuts pod dry weight. In these trials we are putting our product up against industry benchmarks of synthetic and organic products.

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Soybean root nodules from a greenhouse trial. Control on top, Reazent below

We have several other greenhouse trials underway — including soybean, kale, wheat, and tomato — and are very excited to be getting results by mid November to December. Next, we will be running extensive field trials in soybean in North America, Brazil and India during the next growing season.

Alex: In the chaos that is nature, how do you ensure consistency and predictability for farmers? This seems like a challenge, at least in perception, versus traditional chemicals.

Sumit: Farmers have had mixed experiences with ag-biologicals over the years. Often what works in the greenhouse fails in the field. Moreover, their performance varies in different environmental conditions and geographies.

Knowing this we have focused on meeting the needs of farmers in any geography from day one. Unlike conventional biologicals, our system has a very long shelf life. Secondly, they are highly resistant to adverse environmental conditions. This is because our biologics are based on unique bacterial species that form durable spores — a form that allows them to withstand adverse environmental conditions. When condition are right the bacteria activate and start to have their beneficial effect.

Additionally, we have designed our biological system in a manner that allows them to colonize plant roots and soil effectively. This adds to their consistency and predictability.

Alex: There are a growing number of approaches to biologics in agriculture. What makes you different?

Sumit: A few startups involved in this space are tackling the problem of sustainability through synthetic nitrogen fertilizer replacement. Their biologics can directly fix atmospheric nitrogen, providing an alternative source of nitrogen to the plants. Although this mode of action, if successful, would work on crops that don’t fix nitrogen themselves, it won’t work on leguminous crops like soybeans that fix nitrogen themselves through their root nodules.

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Early corn trials. Three untreated roots on left, three Reazent treated roots on the right

We have shown our product increases the number of root nodules significantly in soy, which leads to increased yields. With our library of beneficial soil bacteria we can also work in crops without root nodules, like corn. In these crops we increase immunity, root growth, and vigor of plants through the bacterial secretion of metabolites.

Alex: Regenerative Agriculture is getting a lot of attention as a potential solution for climate change. What’s your take on the role of agriculture, and how do you see Reazent being part of that?

Sumit: Paradoxically, agriculture is a well-known contributor to climate change. This is because a large amount of carbon is released back in the atmosphere due to various farming practices. Therefore, sustainable farming practices such as no tillage farming, crop rotation, and enriching the soil microbiome help in reducing carbon emission from agriculture. If less of carbon in the soil is made available for release in the atmosphere by better utilization of that carbon in the soil itself, the carbon emission from agriculture would come down.

Like the human microbiome in human health, the plant microbiome plays a crucial role in soil health. Recent studies have shown that a rich soil microbiome contributes to improved Carbon Use Efficiency (CUE). This means resident microbes are taking up and retaining carbon in their biomass rather than losing it during respiration. The increased CUE means more carbon is stored in the soil for longer, more beneficial microbes propagate, and plants thrive. Healthy living soil thus benefits humanity by storing more carbon and providing us with healthy nutrient rich crops.

Alex: Finally, tell us about your team. Who are the people building Reazent?

Sumit: I am very proud of my team. They are some of the best business and scientific minds in the sector.

Before starting Reazent, I worked in the chemicals industry for over ten years in a wide range of functions that included innovation, operations, marketing, and sales. Most recently I was with Ashland, a globally renowned specialty chemicals company, where I handled its regional innovation for Asia Pacific. Over the years, I grew to understand the limitations of the chemical industry from the demand side, and what it took to introduce a new product.

Dr. G L Rao is the CTO of Reazent. He is a plant biotechnologist with experience in plant biostimulants. He understands how to translate science into product through his work as a formulation specialist for Tinyfarms-Modgarden where he was involved in the optimization of soilless media and liquid nutrient formulations for greenhouse and indoor gardening. He also co-founded Plasma Agriculture Solutions where he developed cold plasma to treat seeds for improving seed quality and provided services to Argo-industries to perform product trials. Before this he was a post-doctoral Fellow at Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University and at Earth Institute, University College Dublin, Ireland

Our advisory team has experts from the industry and academia.

Dave Warner, a former executive of Indigo, Corteva, and Monsanto advises us on go-to-market strategy and has helped us in building partnerships with potential distributors. Dr. David Mulla is an expert in soil science and precision agriculture. He is helping us build soil expertise that will provide us a competitive advantage in the market. Professor Srienc has three decades of experience in bioengineering and biomaterials. He developed technology to optimize bacterial fermentation and his expertise will help us in product scale-up.

To learn more about Reazent check out their pitch at IndieBio Demo Day on October 28th! To get in touch visit their website at http://reazent.com.

If you’re a startup solving challenges in human and planetary health interested in the IndieBio accelerator, let us know at www.indiebio.co/apply

Introducing IndieBio Class Eight

We’re excited to announce our eighth class at IndieBio. IndieBio invests in revolutionary technologies for human and planetary health, and each of these companies, though small today, has tremendous potential to become a very significant and disruptive company. We selected them from well over 300 who applied from all over the world. Over the next four months, they’ll be going through a rigorous process to commercialize their scientific and technical insights.

HUMAN HEALTH — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -

Beeline

Beeline turns your body’s own cells into drug factories to express antibodies, enzymes, or cytokines. Their method is tissue-specific, facilitating the significant need for localization of drug expression. Their first focus is to replace expensive, monoclonal antibody regimens that have to be injected weekly. They’re working to reprogram patient’s T-regulatory cells to suppress inflammation, effectively curing patients for many years. Rheumatoid arthritis is their first indication.

BiomeSense

The microbiome is one of the most impactful emerging fields in healthcare, yet fundamentally constrained by a lack of biomarkers to measure treatment efficacy. BiomeSense’s platform is a 30x reduction in the cost of doing longitudinal microbiome collection and analysis research, unlocking this exploding market.

Their single-chip, on-toilet design will prep and assay the microbiome strains and upload the data to their cloud. BiomeSense is quickly signing pilot partners to use their device in clinical trials, as well as securing LOIs with partners who desire access to their unique, centralized data. Their platform is well-positioned for CDER Biomarker Qualification for patient monitoring as microbiome therapeutics get approved.

Caspr Bio

Caspr is a diagnostics company that uses CRISPR for rapid detection of antimicrobial resistance.

The World Health Organization considers antimicrobial resistance the number one global health threat. It affects everybody — not just the 700,000 people a year today who die from antimicrobial resistance — but anyone who will develop an infection in the future. Today, when a patient has an infection, it takes three days to determine which bacterial strains are proliferating. Physicians are desperate to know, faster, if a patient has the resistant superbug KPC, or bacteria with the resistant-gene NDM-1. Caspr Bio is making an affordable, point-of-care device that can make this diagnosis in two hours. They use CRISPR to identify the DNA of the most dangerous infectious strains. They will be extending this platform to upgrade many diagnostics with CRISPR.

Gavilan Biodesign

Gavilan Biodesign is an in silico computational design company that redesigns drugs for pharma companies, so cancers cannot develop resistance to the drug.

Cancer cells mutate rapidly. Though targeted therapeutics kill most cancer cells, the mutated ones effectively escape, then proliferate. The cancer comes back. Currently, pharma companies design drugs to target a specific, likely mutation. But then a new mutation makes the cancer resistant to that drug, too. Gavilan is a unique computational drug design company with capabilities new to this field. Their physics-based engine models all possible mutations around a binding site to predict which set of mutations will successfully emerge. Then they redesign a drug to remain effective, not just against one or two mutations, but against all possible future mutations. They can search through 100 trillion molecular structures a day, arriving at superior drug compound structures in a matter of hours. Their goal is to work with many pharma partners to create a new class of targeted therapies that dramatically extend progression-free survival.

Guided Clarity

Guided Clarity has developed a new class of compounds to target and clear cells of dysfunctional mitochondria, improving cellular energy production. Their compounds are synthesized from naturally-occurring ingredients in food, so they are both safe and affordable as a medical food. In their first clinical study on healthy volunteers, the data showed an increase in insulin sensitivity, a reduction in inflammation marker NLR, and improved physical function. Guided Clarity is focused on healthy aging, improving mitochondrial function both in the brain and on the periphery.

PLANETARY HEALTH — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -

11Biomics

11Biomics has developed a very effective, non-pesticide plant treatment that solves a huge problem for the fast-growing cannabis industry — powdery mildew disease. Powdery mildew disease can spike in a cannabis grow operation overnight, ruining a harvest worth millions. Existing antifungal treatments are ineffective or damage the plant. 11Biomics heals plants in a manner of hours by rebalancing the plant’s phytobiome, using natural hyper-antagonists to fungal diseases. Their platform of seven plant therapeutics allows 11Biomics to tune their therapy to different regions of the country, as well as treat other crops commonly affected by powdery mildew — hops, grapes, and tomatoes.

Blue Planet Ecosystem

Blue Planet develops modular systems that turn sunlight into fish — at an industrial scale.

A Blue Planet Ecosystem is a closed-loop stack of six shipping-containers; the system continuously self-optimizes as algae grows on the sunlight, zooplankton grows on the algae, and high-value commercial fish grows on the zooplankton. Thermal energy management and marine life conversion efficiency is handled by their software. In locations where land is cheap and sunlight is plentiful, dozens or hundreds of stacks can be deployed by customers. These will be countries, infrastructure investors, foodservice operators, farmers, and land-developers with temporarily-unused properties. Though fish is the output, the economics are very distinct from aquaculture because it’s a zero input system, creating a new asset type for agri-franchisers.

Decomer Technology

Plastics pollution is an exploding issue for CPG brands as the environmental impacts of products designed to be used for minutes but last for lifetimes is seen. Rather than attempt to change mass-market consumer behavior, industry is challenged to think green while maintaining convenience.

To solve this, Decomer Technology has developed a new sustainable packaging material that is edible and rapidly dissolves in liquids. It has widespread uses across the food industry, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and detergents. Their material is odorless, tasteless, and hypoallergenic, though flavors and micronutrients can be added. It can be tuned to dissolve in cold water, or hot water, or both. It’s very low cost and scalable for high volume manufacturing uses. They are partnering with CPGs for testing.

Electro-Active Technologies

Around the world, biomass is inefficiently converted to biogas or syngas, then to useable electricity. A more efficient approach is to convert liquid biomass and food waste straight to hydrogen for fuel cells. The founders of ElectroActive developed this bioconversion technology at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Their modular power cubes will be used in any quantity to provide renewable power anywhere food waste or biomass is prevalent. Electro-Active is a scalable solution that serves many industrial supply chains, especially in municipalities that have banned food waste from landfills.

New Culture

New Culture is making cheese without the cow. Combining dairy proteins, expressed by microflora, with plant lipids and sugars, their method arrives at curds that are then advanced into the traditional cheesemaking process, be that stirred, kneaded, stretched or aged. New Culture’s cheese has the signature textural properties and qualities that we’re all familiar with in dairy cheese. By removing the cow from the cheesemaking process, New Culture’s cheese is more sustainable, ethical, and better for the world.

Tinctorium

Tinctorium is making the greenest bluejeans for the planet, using biofermentation in their indigo dye process. Across the $100 billion jeans market today, the vast majority of blue denim relies on chemical synthesis and chemical reduction, which significantly harms both the environment and the health of denim workers. Even naturally-grown, plant indigo is reduced with corrosive chemicals. Tinctorium is unique among denim producers, as their system is both scalable and free of chemical synthesis and reduction.

  

Check out our events for opportunities to meet the founders and learn about the future of biotech, and mark your calendar for Demo Day on June 25th!

About IndieBio

IndieBio is the world’s leading life sciences accelerator, having funded 105 biotech startups since starting in March 2015. Companies from all over the world apply to be part of a 4 month acceleration program which includes $250,000 funding, dedicated mentorship, and 24/7 access to a co-working space and bio-safety level 1 & 2 labs. During the program, teams are focused on turning science into product, closing customers, and raising follow-on investment.

Apply here to be in our next class!

Oralta: pioneering oral care through the microbiome

Americans spend over 40 billion dollars every year taking care of their oral health, yet conditions like bad breath, gum disease, and tooth decay are incredibly common. Oralta is looking to change the paradigm of oral health by going beyond the symptom based treatment of today’s products. They’re doing this by targeting the oral microbiome, restoring balance between communities of good bacteria.

I sat down with Kishore Nannapaneni, Oralta’s CEO, to learn more about how Oralta is changing oral health.

 

How did you become interested in microbiome science?

My first job was as a plant scientist at DuPont Pioneer when they acquired Danisco and Genencor. These were both biotech companies working with bacteria, but DuPont didn’t have a bioinformatics staff, and I was put in charge of handling it. This was my first introduction to bacteria and fungi. I loved working with them. They’re much simpler organisms. Their genes have all been annotated, so it’s easy to work with and you can see the results really fast. It’s not like plants where the genomes have not been sequenced, and you can never completely sequence them. There’s a lot of uncertainties with the plant genomes because they’re large,  have a lot of repeats, and a lot of transplants. The relative simplicity of working with bacteria made them incredibly interesting models to work with..

How did you go from working on the microbiome at DuPont to thinking about starting Oralta? And how did you and the team get together?

While I was working at DuPont, Denisco called and said they had started getting their own bioinformatics faculty. I couldn’t continue working with microbial bioinformatics anymore. I’d have to go back to my plant bioinformatics. So, I was looking for a job in microbial bioinformatics and was then hired at Bayer Crop Science where I met Patrick. I never had any problems with my teeth. Patrick, on the other hand, has had a lot of cavities, and he would complain about how he hated going to the dentist. Then, an idea came to us. We were identifying which  bacteria helps plants grow better and helps them fight fungal diseases. Why can’t we do the same for the oral space? Because of the fact that I have good oral hygiene and somebody else doesn’t means that there is a good microbiome and a bad microbiome. If we could identify the bacteria in the good microbiome and put them in people with bad oral health, then we would be able to restore their oral health.

How did that idea become a company and what product are you focused on currently?

Our first product is for bad breath, and the reason we are going for bad breath first is because we can see efficacy in just two weeks. We have a unique formulation formatted as a chewable tablet. People can take it once in the morning and once in the evening after brushing their teeth, and the bad breath levels will drop really significantly in just two weeks. This is an easy way to go directly to the market and make a name for ourselves. We have plans to develop other products in the very near future for other common oral conditions.

What lessons did you learn transitioning into scientific entrepreneurship at IndieBio?

The biggest thing for me at IndieBio was the pace. You’re always working really hard, your peers are working very hard, and IndieBio has been very helpful in pushing us to reach our weekly milestones at a rapid pace. This was the most important thing for me apart from all the connections made through IndieBio and the workshops. For me, the most important thing is that IndieBio sets the pace, and it’s up to you to actually take it beyond the program and work with the same passion and pace.

How do you think success is for Oralta a company can change the dental and oral care industry?

At this point, most other oral hygiene routines are only addressing the symptoms. For example, if you’re brushing your teeth, then you’re only reducing the biofilm and by the evening it grows back. It’s the same thing with mouthwashes, mint, and gum. They’re not addressing the root cause of oral diseases like tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath. We are addressing the problem at the root. We’re trying to rebalance the oral microbiome from a diseased state to a healthy state. In the case of a bad breath, it’s caused by a bacteria releasing volatile sulfur compounds. Our chewable tablets will replace the odor-causing bacteria and replenish the mouth with good bacteria.

What are the big milestones that as a company you are looking to hit in the near future?

Our first product for bad breath is coming out in November 2018, and our second product for gum disease is coming out in Q2 of 2019. Lastly, our third product for tooth decay is coming in Q2 of 2019. Simultaneously, we are building an Oralta AI platform where we will be sequencing thousands of diseased and healthy microbiomes, which we will feed to a platform. The platform will then design the new generation of probiotics and therapeutics.

When you are talking about using the microbiome to design new therapeutics, how do you see this space of microbiome expanding in the future? Do you think it’s a new frontier of medicine?

There is an emerging body of evidence that suggests the role of the oral microbiome in systemic diseases like Alzheimer’s, oral cancer, cardiovascular disease, etc. This has already been established in the case of the gut microbiome. A lot of companies are already successful in the space where they’ve come up with therapeutics, and there’s an emerging body of evidence in the gut microbiome, the gut-brain access, etc. I think there is a great future for therapeutics in the microbiome space and specifically in the oral microbiome space. Our goal is to be the powerhouse of the oral microbiome space.

 

Watch Oralta pitch on IndieBio Demo Day, Tuesday Nov. 6th in San Francisco or via LiveStream. Register here!

Filtricine: A drug free approach to treating cancer

In the last two decades oncology has seen a revolution as treatment transitions to targeted genetic drugs. Yet each therapy relies on a specific genetic profile, limiting the number of diseases it can target. Filtricine is taking a unique approach to treating cancer, targeting changes in cancer cell metabolism rather than genetics. Their approach aims to provide a side-effect free approach to treating a broad range of cancers which all share these metabolic weaknesses.

I chatted with Xiyan Li, co-founder and CEO of Filtricine about his origins and the company’s mission to revolutionize oncology.

Can you tell us a bit about how you became interested in the science of metabolism?

I’m a trained biochemist so I always understand biology from the chemical perspective. Basically, I believe that chemistry is the foundation of life. For life, you only needed two things: metabolism as the chemical foundation, alongside intelligence. If you understand the chemical foundation, you will have a really powerful solution to solve a lot of biological problems.

How did you take this theory and turn it into Filtricine?

In the world of cancer, many people are just focusing on what’s wrong in the cancer cell’s genome, what genes are mutated, and how those functions may contribute to this malignancy. It may be easy for people to forget that because cancer cells are so good at evading drugs by quickly evolving new mutations, it’s probably not the best idea or best strategy to treat them with drugs that are targeting one form of a gene function. My co-founder and CTO, Jimmy, and I, we were both working on metabolism where it is very well known that cancer cells have a very distinctive type of metabolism, which we usually call the Warburg effect. We take advantage of this change in cancer metabolism to create a new type of therapy.

Can you tell us about this new therapy that you’re taking forward into preclinical studies?

We are focusing on reprogrammed metabolism in cancer cells. Due to cancer cells rapid growth, they make a critical compromise: they give up the ability to synthesize many nutrients inside in the cell. These cells have to rely on getting those nutrients from the blood, but normal cells aren’t reliant on the supply available in blood as they can synthesize these nutrients within themselves. First, we have to find out what these nutrients are and then figure out how to take just those nutrients out of the blood, then we can achieve killing cancer cells while simultaneously leaving normal cells unharmed.

The actual product we’re making is a fully drug free nutrition deprivation diet and dialysis. We give patients a diet designed to specifically deprive the body of certain nutrients cancer requires, but are not necessary for healthy cells. The second part is a plasma-mimicking dialysate designed to further pull these specific nutrients out of the body.

How do you think this approach, if successful, can change the pharmaceutical industry?

I think that there are two things. First, we are a drug-free therapy, so we do not use any drug content and our products are a solution, a mixture of things known by the body to be non-toxic, so we can quickly customize solutions based on individual requirements. This means that it is totally customizable, yet scalable. Second, we are broad-spectrum. So far, almost all kinds of drugs are developed by targeting just one particular indication, while our products have demonstrated a broad spectrum efficacy, and it’s likely that we are hitting on a universal feature that is underlying this cancer metabolism. This means that we can actually kill a variety of cancers through attacking this common feature.

What are some lessons learned transitioning from a research scientist into being an entrepreneurial scientist here at IndieBio?

We were scientists, not entrepreneurs, before joining IndieBio, so we thought of things very differently than after going through the IndieBio program. As a scientist, you only want to be the first and that is your focus, but as an entrepreneur, you want to be the best. What you want is to figure out and execute a viable solution to make your products that are as good as possible.

What are some important milestones that you’re looking to hit in the near future as a company?

We are currently at the preclinical stage, our aim is to move to human trials as soon as possible.

 

Watch Filtricine pitch on IndieBio Demo Day, Tuesday Nov. 6th in San Francisco or via LiveStream. Register here!

NovoNutrients: making food from CO2

As the world’s population continues to balloon, demand for seafood is going with it. Aquaculture is the primary method to meet demand, but relies on feeding billions of small fish to larger fish. A process that is inherently unsustainable and is only getting worse as ocean fish supply dwindles. NovoNutrients is looking to solve this problem with a radically different approach, growing high-quality bacterial protein from waste Carbon Dioxide.

I chatted with David Tze, Co-Founder and CEO of NovoNutrients about his origins, problems in the aquaculture industry, and how they plan on disrupting the feed market.

 

How did you first become interested in aquaculture?

I first became interested in aquaculture by reading an article in Wired magazine. It was the May 2004 issue and there was a story about the blue revolution, which was the first time I saw the pioneering work being done in offshore aquaculture. More importantly, it was the first time I really saw the supply and demand trends in global seafood. An exploding middle class was demanding a huge increase in seafood supply and aquaculture was the only way to meet it.

 

So you got interested in aquaculture, but how did you transition to NovoNutrients?

It was a quite a long journey for me in that the introduction to aquaculture was in 2004 and I didn’t meet NovoNutrients’ inventor until 2017. So, during those thirteen years, the first company I started in aquaculture was actually an investment management company. I had been working in the early days of the commercial internet and it wasn’t clear how I was going to get into the aquaculture business. It wasn’t until a colleague came to talk to me about another entrepreneurial opportunity and we unexpectedly realized we had independently developed an identical interest in aquaculture. He’s a very successful serial entrepreneur named Jared Polis, now the Democratic nominee for governor of Colorado.

I started as the aquaculture investing arm of his family office. About a year later we formalized it into a venture fund, brought in outside limited partners, and rolled some of the investments we’d already made into the fund. For about twelve years, I built up this small portfolio in the aquaculture value chain that included feed ingredients. This put me on the path that led me to encounter NovoNutrients in January of 2017.

 

When you met NovoNutrients, what really stood out and what was the hook for this company?

There are really three important things about the company, two of which were things that I was looking for and the third which really surprised me in in a positive way. It was a company that was focused on producing protein for aquaculture and also taking the microbial approach. Knowing that the smaller simpler organisms are generally better at growth and at using inexpensive feedstocks, that was clearly the right approach. The pleasant surprise, which I later discovered, was that NovNutrients was making their protein for aquafeed largely from untreated industrial emissions of CO2.

CO2? That blew my mind. Partially because of the sustainability angle and the part it could play in creating carbon negative feeds to help address climate change, but also because, in my previous experience with a portfolio company doing a feed ingredient, one of the main challenges is inconsistency in the supply of feedstocks. That previous company used beer brewing wastewater as feedstock. It was surprisingly variable in quantity, quality, and contaminants. On the flip side, these carbon dioxide streams were going to be much more voluminous, consistent, and cheaper. It very compelling, and I got on the phone immediately, launching into the first real conversation in what would be a long series of calls and visits leading up to me coming on board as CEO. We announced my role in early October of 2017, at the SynBioBeta conference.

 

You touched on bacteria and untreated carbon dioxide. Could you give us a quick walkthrough of what is it that NovoNutrients does on the technology side?

The big picture is that what we do is a lot like making wine. In winemaking, it’s yeast taking up the sugar in grape juice, as the source of carbon and chemical energy, and using that to reproduce and grow. In our case, it’s a little bit different, in that we use bacteria. Our carbon source is untreated industrial emissions of CO2. Our energy source is hydrogen.

For NovoNutrients, the product is not a waste stream of the microbe, which is the case for alcohol from yeast, but rather the bacteria themselves are the product. These are bacteria that are naturally high in protein and other nutrients, so if you dry them out, they become a protein meal with ideal characteristics for feeding to fish and other animals. Our technology encompasses this entire chain of activity, but the part we’re especially proud of, and that we think is ultimately going to be the most valuable, is the consortium intellectual property that we have developed. This design sits at the middle of our process and is the interface between these inexpensive feedstocks and this valuable mix of microbial protein.

 

What’s the efficiency of this process? Can you really produce the huge amount of protein needed at scale for aquaculture to feed so many people?

The first thing to know about scale is that to make one ton of protein meal, we need two tons of carbon dioxide.

The second thing to know is the scale of carbon dioxide availability. A large cement plant can produce 4 million tons a year of carbon dioxide, potentially to be used by us to produce 2 million tons of protein meal. This would be just more than a third of the current global supply of high-quality protein meal that we’re looking to replace, called fishmeal. Fish meal is made when you catch small bony, oily fish and grind them up then press them out into a protein component and a fat component. That’s your fishmeal and fish oil. Fishmeal is an extremely valuable ingredient that goes in not just fish feeds, but also feeds for pigs and chickens. It is currently valued at more than $1,500 a ton.

Our technology is extremely scalable, not just within the needs of aquaculture, but in a world where several billion tons of meat are raised every year, there’s a huge opportunity for high-quality proteins.

 

You’re talking about meat, not just fish, is this a protein that can expand beyond aquaculture?

Absolutely. Fish are the pickiest eaters because they’ve evolved for hundreds of millions of years in the ocean to eat other things that are in the ocean. The big fish that people like to eat are eating small fish, so they require this very high protein diet with a dramatic range of amino acids. So their nutritional needs are really a superset of the nutritional needs of terrestrial agricultural animals, like chickens and pigs, or for that matter, a person.

We think there will be a significant customer base among today’s food tech companies who are currently buying proteins from the pea or lentil industry but are really interested in having the highest quality proteins at the most reasonable cost. Once we’ve started satisfying the animal nutrition market, we’ll talk to some of the movers and shakers in the world of human food.

 

How was your transition from aquaculture investor to CEO of a biotech aquaculture feed company?

Even as a hyper-focused investor one is still ultimately something of a dilettante, in that you have to be familiar with the full gamut of companies and technologies. It’s quite different to wake up in the morning with all my focus on one company. As a non-scientist, I had to learn a significant amount of science to keep up, even fractionally, with my fantastic technical co-founders who are in the lab every day. Besides the difference in focus, it is very different to be involved in the management of a company instead of being on a board. At the board level, you’re essentially coaching executives and advising them on strategic decisions. When you’re an executive, it’s a whole different slate of activities and I found it extremely rewarding to actually be in the mix instead of just commenting from afar.

There’s a much greater sense of teamwork and inter-reliance on your team. It’s also nice to be in a position to go out and communicate the opportunity and our progress, as well as get advice on challenges, as opposed to always being in the position of evaluator and advisor, which is not fundamentally how I see myself. I think that my new life as an entrepreneur is a better match for who I’ve always been.

 

How do you think NovoNutrients can transform the agriculture industry or at a greater scale the, the food production industry?

I close our investor pitch with the line “make a billion tons of food from 2 billion tons of CO2.” That’s really the kind of scale this technology has the potential to develop into. It can be a gigaton solution for our oceans, climate, and food production systems. That’s because we’ve intentionally chosen to work with some of the largest resources on the planet in terms of gaseous carbon waste. That’s billions of tons every year. As for hydrogen, that can be made from renewable power.

We’re talking about building a new pillar of the food system that’s decoupled from both agriculture and fossil fuels. If the industry is producing CO2 and there is a source of clean power, then producing electricity for the electrolysis of water to make hydrogen allows us to scale up to an extremely large facility while we replicate that facility many times on each continent.

We’d aim to be in a position where we can fundamentally bring down the cost of food and increase its availability worldwide.

 

What big milestones are you and you and the company aiming to hit in the near future?

Our next big milestone is to scale to 500-liter bioreactors, to address early adopter specialty markets. Our other milestone is developing our synthetic biology platform. One of the incredible things about our workhorse bacteria is that they’re genetically tractable and culturable. And so these bacterial models have tremendous potential to produce biochemicals with between five and 100 carbon atoms in the molecule. The first place to go with that will be that same aquaculture feed market that we’re working on with our NovoMeal protein. This allows us to go beyond protein and address many of the other needs in the animal nutrition space.

 

Watch NovoNutrients pitch on IndieBio Demo Day, Tuesday Nov. 6th in San Francisco or via LiveStream. Register here!

EMBER: Distributed Emergency Response for Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac arrest is one of the most time critical conditions that can strike anywhere. For the patient, each minute until the ambulance arrives has a huge impact on survival and future medical complications. Ember Medical is solving this by connecting the millions of high-risk patients with CPR-trained medical professionals in the community. Their app alerts nearby first-responders and 911, allowing anyone with cardiac arrest to get stabilized while the ambulance is still on the way.

We chatted with Mohamed (Shadi) Wahba, Co-Founder and CEO of EMBER about the company’s origins and progress so far.

 

How did you become interested in digital health and emergency medicine?

Shadi: I think it all started because I lost a lot of people in my life. I lost my friend when I was 17 years old to cardiac arrest, and then I lost my mother when I was about 21. At that time I was very interested in technology and finding a way to use it to help people in times of greatest need. This was something I sat with for a long time, and I tried a lot of different projects until I found the right idea and team. That’s how EMBER came to be.

How did the company start and how did you get your team together?

Shadi: It all began on a phone call between myself and my cousin, Mo, who is a cardiologist. He wanted to improve defibrillators, and I had the engineering background to help. We came up with a plan to build a, cheaper, faster, smartphone-enabled defibrillator, but soon realized that a new and improved AED didn’t begin to solve the real problem we were trying to address. The main issue causing survival rates to be very, very low in cardiac arrest, or similar time-sensitive emergencies, is that it takes too long for an ambulance to arrive on the scene.

There are nearly 60 million Americans who are CPR-trained or medical professionals. With those numbers the odds are high one will be near a victim and able to provide life-saving support before an ambulance arrives. We realized the solution to improving survival rates was simply to notify these individuals that their help is needed nearby. After further research, we found that several countries were in the process of adopting a similar idea at a governmental level, and studies have shown that this has increased the survival rate significantly. We had the research and the technology, and we knew that this was a platform that not only had real-world potential but real-world successes.

How does EMBER work if I’m just any person off the street who wants to use your product?

Shadi: Our app is available across all app stores to anyone with a smartphone. If you are walking on the street and you or a loved one has a sudden medical emergency, you can tap the in-app alert button to notify 911 and the nearest medics around you that you need help. Of course, there may be emergencies in which your movement may be limited. Our app allows your loved ones to download the app on their own smartphones—we’ve even enabled voice activation for easier access.

What happens when your app gets notified?

Shadi: Once the alert button is pressed, we simultaneously send your location to 911 and to nearby medics. When the medic is notified, they can choose to respond with a one-tap confirmation. They are then guided through in-app navigation to your location and will provide on-site support in the form of CPR and/or defibrillation until the ambulance arrives.

Our medic network will be responding to cardiac arrest cases in our pilot phase, and will then expand to respond to other time-sensitive emergencies such as opioid overdose, hypoglycemia, and anaphylactic shock. When each minute matters, EMBER ensures that a professional from our network is on their way to help as fast as possible.

What lessons did you learn transitioning from this idea into building a company while at IndieBio?

Shadi: It has absolutely been a transformative experience for me. This all started as an off-hand idea and as what felt like a project with my cousin. It’s totally different from building a company where we now have to think about all the different dynamics involved: who we’re going to hire, how to prioritize, what needs to be built first, where to find funding. It’s a much more complex animal. But the thing I loved about IndieBio is that we always had resources to learn from—whether that was the IndieBio team themselves or our fellow startups with vastly different life experiences. The amount of knowledge that I gained about the startup world and how to manage a company through these last four months is unparalleled. I wouldn’t have accomplished nearly as much without this network. It wasn’t an easy transition, but it was amazingly valuable. I can’t say enough about how much I learned and grew, as both a person and a CEO.

What were some of your greatest successes in the first months of building Ember?

Shadi: In just a few months we’ve formed critical partnerships  to build our network of medics, increase awareness, and expand to potential userbases. What started as an idea is now a full-fledged platform backed by partnerships with the American Nursing Association, Sutter Health, and other international organizations. It is very exciting for us to have partnered with the Qatar Foundation where we will be helping to provide emergency support for the World Cup in 2022.

How do you think EMBER’s success can change the emergency medicine landscape?

Shadi: A large part of what we are doing involves integrating with 911. This is a crucial part of improving the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) system as a whole. 911 technology is very much stuck in the 1970’s and 1980’s, which doesn’t make sense when existing technology is capable of so much more. Lives are at stake. Why not use the technology we have to help the most crucial system in our lives? EMBER eliminates the technology gap and brings EMS out of the dark ages. It’s a comprehensive solution, and I do believe it will be the go-to app for medical emergencies.

We can’t afford to waste time in the multistep process of calling 911 and waiting 15 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. EMBER makes it possible to use existing technology to notify and receive help within 5 minutes. Life is our most valuable commodity, we need to make the most out of the technology we have to preserve it.

What milestones is EMBER aiming for in the near future?

Shadi: We have three big milestones that we want to achieve in the near future. The first is to grow our medic network. The more medics we have, the faster response will be and the more lives we can save.

The next will be full integration with 911 dispatch centers. Our goal is to establish a two-way communication to improve their systems for all callers. For our third milestone, we’ll focus on expanding our emergency response efforts to address all time-sensitive medical emergencies, including opioid overdose, hypoglycemia, and anaphylactic shock.

We’re excited to hit these milestones, and many more, to make EMBER the go-to resource for all medical emergency needs in the near future.

 

Watch Ember pitch on IndieBio Demo Day, Tuesday Nov. 6th in San Francisco or via LiveStream. Register here!

Introducing IndieBio Class Seven

At IndieBio, we are on a mission to turn scientists into entrepreneurs to solve the world’s biggest challenges. Biology as a technology has now come to the point where we are able to design the world around us with unprecedented speed and precision to improve planetary and human health.

This renaissance is being fueled by converging megatrends of machine learning, CRISPR, genomics, and cellular agriculture and a wave of forward-thinking scientists leaving the halls of academia to build startups.

We have made many improvements to the IndieBio program in the past several months, including the addition of a leadership track with tailored mentors and sessions to help scientists become leaders.

We’ve also introduced an Adjunct Partner board, composed of subject-matter experts across the life sciences. The first six members are:

  • Alexander (Sasha) Kamb, PhD: Sasha has decades of experience leading R&D teams in biopharma. He’s currently the CSO of A2 Biotherapeutics, and previously was Senior VP of R&D at Amgen.
  • Darrin Crisitello, MBA: Darrin brings years of sales experience from across healthcare. He has scaled multiple large sales teams, with his most recent being Color Genomics and Natera.
  • David Eagleman, PhD: David is a renowned neuroscientist, entrepreneur, and author. He’s the CEO of NeoSensory, an adjunct professor at Stanford University, writer and presenter of PBS’s The Brain, and advisor to several companies and non-profits.
  • Leonardo Teixeira, PhD: Leo embodies the scientist to entrepreneur story of many IndieBio founders. He co-founded GeneWeave coming out of his PhD at Cornell, which was later acquired by Roche.
  • Shehnaaz Suliman, MD, MPhil, MBA: Shehnaaz brings a wealth of experience at the intersections of medicine and biopharma. She has a deep expertise in strategy and corporate development, and was also a practicing physician.
  • Tim Lu, MD, PhD: Tim is a pioneer in synthetic biology, weaving together a background in medicine, biomedical engineering, and computer science. He’s an assistant professor at MIT and serial entrepreneur, with his latest venture being Senti Biosciences.

Today we’re excited to announce our seventh class at IndieBio. Founders have converged on San Francisco for the next four months to productize their insights through a design driven process. Startups span the future of food, consumer biology, therapeutics, and diagnostics.

 

BioRosa

BioROSA enables early detection and improvements in the pediatric diagnostic process for autism by providing clinicians validated blood tests to improve diagnostic certainty.

Chronus Health

Chronus Health is building a handheld diagnostic device that reduces turnaround times at clinics from days to minutes. Their initial launch for CBC and CMP tests account for 50% of all blood tests performed.

Clinicai

Clinicai is building a smart toilet monitor for non-invasive early detection of gastrointestinal cancers and diseases.

Convalesce

Convalesce is creating stem cell therapies for neurodegenerative diseases, starting with Parkinson’s. With a proprietary biomaterial they create a brainlike micro-environment suited for stem cell differentiation.

Filtricine

Filtricine is developing a drug-free nutrient deprivation therapy to exploit metabolic dependencies to kill cancer cells.

Oralta

Oralta designs tailored probiotics for oral health. Their probiotics balance communities of microbes to treat bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease.

New Age Meats

New Age Meats is making clean meat with an automated data-driven platform.

NovoNutrients

NovoNutrients makes food from CO2. Their microbes break down industrial emissions of carbon dioxide and reassemble them into low-cost and nutrient-rich aquaculture feed and specialty ingredients.

Ember

Ember is a distributed platform to bring emergency medicine out of the hospital. By connecting patients in need to health professionals in the community, they speed up response times and improve outcomes.

Quartolio

Quartolio is a knowledge management platform that accelerates research by connecting the dots across scientific articles, clinical trials, and patents with the power of NLP.

Serenity Bioworks

Serenity Bioworks is developing an immune tolerance platform for biologics. Their first product will unlock redosable gene therapy for Hemophilia.

Stämm

Stämm is reinventing the infrastructure of bio-manufacturing with a new approach to fermentation. Their miniaturized bioreactors accelerate condition optimization, lower cost, and allow for modular scaling.

 

Check out our events for opportunities to meet the founders and learn about the future of biotech, and mark your calendar for Demo Day on November 6th!

About IndieBio

IndieBio is the world’s leading life sciences accelerator, having funded 94 biotech startups since starting in March 2015. Companies from all over the world apply to be part of a 4 month acceleration program which includes $250,000 funding, dedicated mentorship, and 24/7 access to a co-working space and bio-safety level 1 & 2 labs. During the program, teams are focused on turning science into product, closing customers, and raising follow-on investment.

Apply here to be in our next class!

Announcing IndieBio Summer 2017 Class!

IndieBio is incredibly excited to announce our fifth class of life science companies. Founders have come to San Francisco from all over the world, including Chile, South Africa, Canada, and across the USA.

These teams are tackling problems in a host of industries such as gene therapy, regenerative medicine, the future of food, and Health IT.

BioAesthetics

BioAesthetics is regenerating the nipple-areolar complex for the 200,000+ women whom undergo mastectomies every year.

DNAlite

DNALite Therapeutics is developing gene therapy treatments for the gastrointestinal tract. The first lead candidate is for colon cancer, which is the second deadliest cancer in the U.S.

Finless Foods

Finless Foods is producing real fish meat in vitro to feed 8B+ people in 2020. Their fish is free from the mercury, plastic, and hormones that come with all aquaculture and factory fish.

Health Linkages

Health Linkages is the Data Provenance Company. Health Linkages uses a combination of blockchain and big data to enable healthcare and life science institutions to trust, protect and share their data.

QuantumCyte

QuantumCyte is enabling a deeper understanding of the immune system and cancer biology by enabling next-gen single cell analysis. Their technology has unprecedented ability to analyze large numbers of cells at industry leading resolution.

Pheronym

Pheronym is creating an all natural highly effective insect control for agriculture. By leveraging pheromone spray they double nematode’s effectiveness as an organic insecticide to rival chemicals, without any of the negative health or environmental impact.

Prellis Biologics

Prellis is creating living tissues and organs for pharmaceutical testing and organ transplant. Prellis instantaneously prints high resolution tissue scaffolds that grow into functioning human organs.

Proteorex Therapeutics

Proteorex is discovering small-molecule drugs to treat diseases with the greatest unmet medical need. Their platform can rapidly and cost-effectively unlock previously undruggable targets and has produced multiple partnered compounds.

Stelvio Oncology

Stelvio is focused on delivering precision medicine diagnostics and novel therapeutics for glioblastoma. The resistance of high-grade glioma to conventional cytotoxic drugs has prompted our development of a novel approach to therapy, including differentiating glioma stem cells to less tumorigenic cell fates.

Sugarlogix

Sugarlogix is creating sugars with functional benefits for healthier foods. Their functional sugars enhance the immune system, promote gut health, and reduce inflammation without compromising taste.

TheNotCo

NotCo is combining AI with food-science to craft cutting-edge plant-based foods that deliver unprecedented experiences: Greek Yogurt, Milk, Cheese, Mayo all tasting like the real thing (and even better).

UBA Biologix

UBA cleans industrial wastewater from coal, gold, and platinum mines with an organic bioremediation system. Their first system is operating on a large coal mine in South Africa.

About IndieBio

IndieBio is the world’s largest life sciences accelerator, having funded 67 biotech startups since starting in March 2015. Companies from all over the world apply to be part of a 4 month acceleration program which includes $250,000 funding, dedicated mentorship, and 24/7 access to a co-working space and bio-safety level 1 & 2 labs. During the program, teams are focused on turning science into product, closing customers, and raising follow-on investment.

With a focus on biology as a technology, IndieBio companies solve problems in a huge range of industries such as the future of food, biopharma and healthcare, agtech, regenerative medicine, neurotech, biomaterials, and more. Notable alum include Memphis Meats, Koniku, SyntheX Therapeutics, Catalog, Ava Winery, and Qidni Labs.

Apply here to be in our next class!

Announcing IndieBio’s 4th Class!

IndieBio's 4th Class

IndieBio is excited to announce our newest class of thirteen biotech startups. These companies are bringing innovation to a host of industries, from classical biotech spaces like drug development and medical devices all the way to veterinary, information storage, and utilities markets.

While these companies will be based in downtown San Francisco for the next four months, all their technologies will have global impact.

A2a

A2A Pharmaceuticals designs computationally pre-optimized small molecule therapeutics for the treatment of cancer and antibiotic resistant bacterial infections.

Animal Microbiome

Animal Microbiome helps the monitoring and treatment of chronic health conditions in animals by providing a novel microbiome testing service.

BioInspira

BioInspira has developed a virus-based sensor network which will enable detection of airborne chemicals remotely and in real time, creating the next generation of infrastructure for industry.

Catalog

Catalog is harnessing DNA to store the world’s information.

DxRx

DxRx is a scalable digital health medical practice treating early stage alcohol addiction through telemedicine and behavior modification.

GEA Enzymes

GEA Enzymes creates designer proteins by finding and manipulating specific enzyme activity. They make enzymes for the food industry that reduce saturated fat levels while maintaining consistent aroma, taste, and feel.

Mendel Health

Mendel Health automates matching cancer patients to clinical trials through personal medical history and genetic analysis.

NeuroQore

NeuroQore is commercializing an innovative new repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) therapy system for treatment of depression and a range of other psychiatric and neurological disorders. rTMS is an emerging therapeutic brain stimulation technique that does not require anesthesia.

Pure Cultures

Pure Cultures develops and manufactures novel prebiotics and probiotics to support the health of animals and reduce antibiotics in our food chain.

Ravata Solutions

Ravata Solutions is transforming transgenic model development through automation with an aim of increasing pre-clinical medical discovery and innovation by 10–100x.

Scaled Biolabs

Scaled Biolabs is accelerating biologic, gene, and cell therapies using smart microfluidic chips. Thousands of cell experiments can be parallelized and automated on their lab-on-a-chip system, increasing throughput, precision, economy, and insight that can lead to dramatic innovations in organogenesis, fermentation condition optimization and therapeutic production.

Venomyx

Venomyx is bringing antivenom into the 21st century with the world’s first toxin-specific snake antivenom. Their solution will make antivenom treatment safe, effective, and affordable for the millions of snakebite victims per year around the world that are currently underserved.

ViaeX

ViaeX creates biological nanofiltration systems for water and air which are 400% more efficient than current solutions and enable selective pollutant and bacteria targeting. These systems are biodegradable, low cost, and rapidly scalable to enable fast deployment in cities around the world facing serious pollution issues.

Founder Stories: an Interview with Maria from SyntheX Labs

Founder Stories: an Interview with Maria from SyntheX Labs

Maria Soloveychik is the CEO and co-founder of SyntheX Labs, a biotech company developing peptide therapeutics for cancer and other rare diseases.

A: Tell me about your background, how did you get interested in the biotech space?

M: So it started in 8th when I decided I wanted to do biology so I could clone endangered species and play with water bears. Later on, as an undergrad, I realized how much I loved experimental design and research so getting a PhD was a no-brainer. After getting exposed to many different fields, from biochemistry to cell biology to microscopy, I decided on Cellular Metabolism since it’s vital in so many life processes. Going to University of Toronto allowed me to be in a world class molecular genetics department and surrounded by cutting edge research, while also being able to push my own projects forward.

A: What problem are you working to solve with your company, SyntheX?

M: We’re designing a platform for drug discovery to target previously undruggable targets for cancer and other rare diseases. There are over 650,000 protein-protein interactions that we know of in human cells, and there is only one drug that has been approved that can break one of these interactions. If our platform works it opens up this enormous space of possibility to treat previously incurable diseases.

A: It sounds like you have really ambitious goals for SyntheX, what type of progress have you been able to make towards them so far?

M: We came into IndieBio with an idea for a drug discovery platform and a list of targets. In the three months since then we’ve built out the platform, created compounds, and tested them in clinical models. We started with a compound to target incurable liver cancer, Intrahepatic Cholangiocarcinoma (ICC), and Castration Resistant Prostate Cancer (CRPC). By targeting a specific pathway they both rely on we have seen very selective and potent killing of the ICC and CRPC cells that we’re now working to test in animal models.

A: How is your team uniquely able to tackle this challenge? What’s the expertise?

M: Charlie, our CSO, and I have different, but complementing skillsets that give us a unified view of drug design. Together we have decades of experience in cancer biology, structural biology, and genetic engineering that are all invaluable. Realizing how tough this industry is, we’ve worked really hard to get great advisors who have taken drugs through the FDA for indications we’re targeting. Their experience has been incredibly useful in guiding us.

A: If you could only pick one thing to validate your reason for forming a startup, what would it be? In other words, what would be the single biggest indicator to you that you are doing the right thing?

M: For the company, the ultimate validation by far is finding ways to cure previously incurable diseases. Personally, this feels very natural to me since it provides such a level of control of your own work and results. In academia, we make these type of discoveries frequently, but it’s so rare that they’re applied and brought to the world.

A: So speaking of academia, any big lessons learned transitioning from there to startup entrepreneurship?

M: So many actually. The biggest was transitioning to thinking about the economics behind science and funding from private sources instead of grants. Raising funds and planning milestone achievement has been a new challenge that we’re learning more about every day. Personally, I’ve gone from a purely scientific role into a business role where I have to communicate the science in a way that’s accessible to non-experts.

AK: How do you think success can change your industry?

M: I think it opens the door to a lot more young startups with outside the box ideas to go out and make them a reality. Big pharma can seem like an intimidating black box from the outside and we want other grad students and postdocs to be able to go out and create new innovative companies.

A: What are the big goals and milestones you’re looking to hit in the short term? Long term?

M: In the short term, we’re looking to move our compounds into development and secure funding to hire more talent to round out our team. Long term, it’s about establishing strategic partnerships to move into the clinic quickly and see patients benefiting from the treatments we’re developing.

You can reach Maria at msoloveychik@synthexlabs.com or twitter — mso_nightingale

Are you a scientist looking to build the next generation of biotech companies? Apply to IndieBio San Francisco

IndieBio and NIH’s National Institute Drug Abuse announce collaboration on $100k Startup Challenge

IndieBio and NIH's National Institute Drug Abuse announce collaboration on $100k Startup Challenge

IndieBio and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA ), part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) are excited to announce a historic new collaboration aimed at accelerating the formation of biotech startups which will tackle the issues of drug abuse and addiction in the USA via the “$100K to Start a SUD Startup” Challenge.

Estimated at seven hundred billion dollars a year in total cost to the economy, drug abuse is one of biggest health-related issues in the country. Drug use and substance use disorders (SUDs) affect millions of Americans and impose enormous costs on society. In 2014, nearly 27 million people in the U.S. were current users of illicit drugs or misused prescription drugs.

This collaboration looks for biomedical and psychological approaches to treating or preventing SUD by taking basic research and creating a startup to commercialize the application of the underlying technology. “We built IndieBio next to 6th street, an area of San Francisco that has a high concentration of drug abuse because we believe it is important to be part of change in whatever you do.” Said Arvind Gupta, Managing Director of IndieBio.

Ryan Bethencourt, IndieBio Program Director continues, “We see the effects of drug abuse and its criminalization daily and believe there must be a better way to help those affected by this disease. Working with NIDA to help scientists start startups is what we are already set up to do. Drug abuse is a huge and seemingly impossible problem, exactly the type of challenge we like to take on.”

In 2016, NIDA will be awarding $10,000 prizes to 10 winners of the Challenge contest. The Challenge is to turn a research idea into a working prototype of the product. If the product prototype is successfully validated, it is expected that the decision to create a biotech startup will be made no later than 6 months after the prize is awarded.

If you are a researcher who believes your work could qualify and you think you can change the world with your technology, please apply today!

For more info on the $100,000 for Start a SUD Startup Challenge, please visit: www.challenge.gov/challenge/100000-for-start-a-sud-startup/

 

About the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug use and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to inform policy, improve practice, and advance addiction science. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs and information on NIDA research and other activities can be found at www.drugabuse.gov.

 

About IndieBio:

IndieBio is short for Independent Biology, a new way for scientists, entrepreneurs, and tinkerers to shape their own destiny and make something that matters. Funded out of the SOS Ventures, IndieBio is the first accelerator to exclusively focus on life science startups. IndieBio provides seed funding and intensive mentorship to drive the transition of ideas from bench to prototype within three months, and launching graduate companies with disruptive technologies into the world of biotechnology. For more information on IndieBio please visit: http://sf.indie.bio/

IndieBio’s 15 Latest Biotech Startups

IndieBio’s 15 Latest Biotech Startups

Today, we stand on the brink of the fourth industrial revolution which fuses the physical, digital and biological spheres of technology that will fundamentally alter the way we all treat our health, eat sustainable and live better. This revolution which is being built by hundreds of startups around the world will have a biological base.

IndieBio is pleased to announce the latest 15 IndieBio companies based here in San Francisco. Based in SF, they all have a global vision, hailing from all corners of the globe to change humanity through a blend of technology and biology. In alphabetic order:

Amaryllis Nucleics

Amaryllis empowers researchers by accelerating important discoveries in genomics. Our technology halves the time and reduces the cost of RNA sequencing by 8-fold to empower the cutting edge cancer diagnostics, pharmaceutical development, and food security innovations.

Ardra

Natural and petroleum free products are the fastest growing category in cosmetics, worth over $23B globally. Ardra is engineering technologies to produce completely petroleum-free, high purity, and sustainable biochemicals for the cosmetics market, as well as for pharmaceuticals and foods.

AstRoNA

Food poisoning is a serious global concern today with over 1 in 6 people getting food poisoning resulting in over 128,000 hospitalizations in just the US every year. AstRoNA Biotechnologies is engineering a simple to use detector that can be deployed on-site at every phase of food production from field to table. Our technology can screen all food types in under an hour versus today’s 48 hour standard food safety process.

BioNascent

BioNascent is determined to close the gap between the health outcomes of breastfed and formula fed infants. To do so, we manufacture the world’s first humanized infant formula aimed at delivering a perfect balance of essential amino acids and carbohydrates.

Endura Bio

Twenty five percent of the world’s arable land is currently unusable due salt groundwater contamination and more arid environments. Endura Bio is engineering salt and drought tolerant plants to be more salt and drought tolerant to increase yields from marginal lands globally, unlocking the potential to feed the world.

Genome Surveillance

DNA sequencing is driving the new genomic revolution but it’s currently bottlenecked with high compute costs and inaccuracies. Genome Surveillance is revolutionizing DNA sequencing to make it ten times faster and more accurate through reducing the heavy computational load and dropping it to a fraction of the cost of current technologies.

Jungla

Today we only understand what ~0.5% of the genetic variants in patient genomes mean and it impedes our ability to diagnose and treat genetics diseases and risk factors. At Jungla, we have developed a software platform that can accurately model the impacts of mutations and accelerate diagnostic development by 5x by harnessing advanced statistical algorithms that were developed at the leading Stanford bioinformatics lab.

Knox

Knox Medical Diagnostics is bringing hospital level asthma management technology to families at home with the first tool to revolutionize decades old practices. Like a blood sugar monitor for diabetes, this tool provides predictive insights to parents of asthmatics that will prevent asthma attacks, enable proactive medication management, and give patients and parents peace of mind.

mFluidX

Zika Virus, Dengue Fever, and other global pandemics ravish countries as a result of a lack of rapidly deployable field based diagnostics. mFluidX has created a DNA diagnostic test the size of a stick of gum that can be deployed and provide results in 30 minutes. All with a self-powered disposable chip that costs 1000x less than current bulky benchtop based lab diagnostics.

MiraculeX

MiraculeX is creating the next generation of the best tasting and healthy sweeteners in the world using plant proteins under one calorie per serving. We get rid of the sugar and terrible aftertaste of your everyday sweeteners.

MycoWorks

MycoWorks is building a world with fewer plastics, no toxins, and zero waste by harnessing the power of Mushrooms. We grow natural alternatives to plastic foams, textiles, and leather, for use in aerospace, automobiles, apparel, and architectural interiors.

OneSkin

Safety testing for cosmetics today relies on inaccurate and inhumane animal testing. OneSkin is developing a human 3D skin tissue model to do toxicity tests that are more accurate, reliable, and completely animal free that can provide a deeper understanding of human skin.

Qidni

Over one million people globally die of untreated kidney failure each year. In addition, dialysis technology has stagnated over the last fifty years with virtually no progress. Qidni Labs is building an implantable artificial kidney for 10% of patients with kidney disease, many of which get kidney failure. Our device is estimated to last the equivalent amount of time as a transplanted kidney without needing maintenance or cleaning.

SyntheX

SyntheX is expanding drug design into the ‘undruggable’ space for the treatment of cancer and rare diseases. We implement an innovative platform for the accelerated discovery of new classes of therapeutics that target the Achilles’ heel of cancer cells in a highly specific and selective manner.

Willow Cup

Willow Cup is optimizing plant-based proteins to create healthy animal-free options for premium indulgences, starting with specialty tea and coffee. We are hacking the infinite properties of plant proteins to replace traditional dairy for a more sustainable future.

Biology is Technology.

World Agri-Tech Investment Summit Partnering with IndieBio

World Agri-Tech Investment Summit Partnering with IndieBio

We’re delighted to announce that IndieBio is partnering with the World Agri-Tech Investment Summit! This year more than 400 international ag technology leaders, innovators, and investors will gather in San Francisco on March 16-17th.

This year’s theme is “Connecting Business and Technology to Create Scalable Innovation” and already an outstanding faculty of speakers have confirmed their participation, including: 

  • Jim Blome of Bayer Cropscience
  • Robert Fralet of Monsanto
  • Neal Gutterson of Pioneer Hi-Bred International
  • Steve Webb of Dow Agrosciences
  • Vishal Vasishth of Obvious Ventures
  • Vipula Shukla of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Due to demand, the program had been expanded to include a pre-summit tour to see agricultural innovation in action in the Napa Valley on Tuesday March 15.

The tour will visit sites featuring precision agriculture solutions developed at UC Davis, followed by a visit to the Chimney Rock Winery, with an exclusive opportunity to sample some of Napa’s finest wines.

Detailed information on the tour itinerary is available on the summit website along with the full summit program for March 16-17.

To book one of the few remaining tickets, please book here 

Indie Bio.

Bringing Biotech to the Masses: an Interview with Julie Legault of Amino

Bringing Biotech to the Masses: an Interview with Julie Legault of Amino

Even though biotech has a huge impact on the lives of the general public, it is an intimidating and foreign space to many. The everyday person rarely feels like they can understand and play a role in this massive field.

Amino Labs is making science accessible to the masses by creating an easy to use biokit for the consumer home. I spoke with Julie, the CEO, about her unexpected path to biotech, approaching the field from design, and the impact of an at-home biokit. Check out her pitch live on February 4th on IndieBio’s Demo Day Livestream!

 

A: Tell me about your background, how did you get interested in the biotech space?

J: I never imagined I would become involved in the biotech space, to be quite honest. It seemed very foreign, complex and closed-off considering my background is in Design and Applied Arts. I’ve been focused on translating important technological advancement into understandable and desirable applications for the broader public – mainly in the field of wearables. I was actually inspired by synthetic biology when I came across the banana smell program from biobuilder in a microfluidics course I was taking to create a wearable. Long story short, I met Natalie Kuldell of Biobuilder and was amazed that a non-scientist like me could hack biology and create a living thing in a few days. A living thing that produced a smell or a pigment! I was inspired by what synthetic biology allowed me to create,  and amazed at how much a similarly simple three-day hands-on experience with bioengineering actually informed my opinion of it – I experienced the creative side of making with biology, and saw all that is possible to create currently and in the future.

 

A: What problem are you working to solve with your company, Amino?

J: Seeing the reaction of friends with no hands-on experience, and my struggle to recreate a hands-on bioengineering success outside of a workshop or lab, the idea of the Amino One platform came about. An easy playful way for anyone to have the workshop experience in their home or school. Stumbling on a fun and easy hands-on workshop for bioengineering is far from common, yet everyone is affected in one way or another by the products of bioengineering.

At the moment, the science is facing a difficult problem. There is an incredible lag between the importance of synbio and biotechnology in our daily lives and our general perception of it. The applications have tremendous benefits for us, yet society’s view of it is broadly negative.  This is always the case whenever science advances faster than our ability to comprehend it, simply think back to the early days of computers. In this societal context, I saw an opportunity for me to do important, significant work. With my design background and newfound friends in the science world, I was uniquely placed create a hands-on learning platform that could reach a broader audience. This first-hand experience allows individuals to feel entitled to partake in the difficult discussions about ethics, safety, and applications of biotech.

We see the potential of the Amino One to enable millions more people to enter the field of bioengineering and make sure the next generation of problem-solvers is equipped with the right tools and knowledge to produce, create and solve.

 

A: If you could only pick one thing to validate your reason for forming a startup, what would it be? In other words, what would be the single biggest indicator to you that you are doing the right thing?

J: I can’t imagine a world in which all the power, decision and creation offered through bioengineering rests in the hands of the few and the elite while it influencing our very way of living. Everyone has the basic right to understand where and how new food, fuels, medicines and materials come into existence, and experience the basic of this science first hands to enable them to make informed thoughtful decisions. Furthermore, anyone that desires it should have the chance to try and create safe and imaginative solutions, entertainment, and experiences for their own lives.

 

A: How do you think success can change your industry?

J: We really believe that throwing open the doors to the science will allow technological advancement in the field to advance significantly faster by allowing the public to partake in critical efforts, development and discussions. For example, the mainstream adoption of computers allowed us to take all the leaps and bounds that brought us us to where we are today: Most of what your phone and computers allow you to do, personally, professionally, socially and on the larger human-scale was made possible by this democratization of computer science. We know that opening up bioengineering in a similar way will allow us to go even further, faster.

 

A: How is your team uniquely able to tackle this? What’s the expertise?

J: Our expertise ranges from science, synthetic biology, and bioengineering, to mechanical and electrical engineers, software developers and data storytellers, to educators and designers. Having this broad range of skills really makes us uniquely positioned to understand the user experience, the servicing experience and the technical and scientific aspects of it. But mostly, I think it is everyone’s passion for different aspects of the Amino Labs Dream that makes us stand out.

 

A: Any big lessons learned transitioning to startup entrepreneurship?

J: Considering I had never planned on founding a startup and it all happened organically, the first lesson is be ready for anything!  When my thesis research on Amino ended as I was graduating, it was clear to me that I had to bring the Amino One platform into real people’s hands. Though I still resisted the idea of having a startup, I brought some friends together and, as a team, we rebuilt the prototype from an academic demo into a consumer-ready (almost ready) product. Even though I still am not very comfortable with the idea of having a “startup”, it really is a great experience and sense of achievement to bring your research from some theoretical, somewhat working prototype into something real-world people care about and are willing to have in their house!  

The lesson I learned which applies perhaps mostly to the designers out there is that even though you know compromises will be necessary along the way they will still be difficult. Between usability, function, user experience, aesthetics, price, sustainability, focus, and funding, there are so many things to consider that lead to hard decisions. So trust your instinct, trust your team, but more importantly, trust your actual, real-life users. And keep user-testing! Remember the long term goals… I can’t imagine not having any Amino One, Two or Threes out there in the wild, and if it means compromising on that lush material I had my eye on for the shell, well, so be it.

 

A: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered so far?

J: Actually, I don’t believe we have faced a major challenge so far. We have been very very fortunate in that way. We do, however, foresee our biggest challenge coming up quickly – we  have the need to scale up production of the Amino One much quicker than expected (which is a good problem to have, but still)! This means entering the large scale manufacturing world. We have a few leads and ideas on how to proceed, but this will definitely be a new experience for most of us.

 

A: What are the big goals and milestones you’re looking to hit in the short term? Long term?

J: In the short term, we will be shipping out the fifty Amino Ones sold on Indiegogo, all hand-assembled by us in wintery Canada! Following this, we are starting our “workshop series” where we will be visiting schools, museums, fablabs all around the world for 3+ day workshops using Amino One to spread open bioengineering and refine our curriculum and product. The longer term will see us going into larger scale production and shipping out products to schools at the district level before entering the home market in the coming years as we develop more home-centric apps like the ones for brewing and baking.

 

Get in touch with Julie at julie@amino.bio

Enabling Proactive Medicine with the Immune System: an Interview with Anitha Jayaprakash of Girihlet

Enabling Proactive Medicine with the Immune System: an Interview with Anitha Jayaprakash of Girihlet

The immune system is the cornerstone of our health and ability to fight disease, but there are no methods to truly monitor its status. As a result, medicine is forced into being reactive to illness, rather than fighting disease before it starts.

Girihlet is working towards a future where the immune system is monitored at every doctor’s visit and we can predict our resilience to disease before it happens. I talked with Anitha, one of the co-founders, about how her team is tackling this problem, the future of Girihlet, and how this technology can change public health. Check out her pitch live on February 4th on IndieBio’s Demo Day Livestream!

 

AK: Tell me about your background, how did you get interested in the biotech space?

AJ: I’ve always been interested in the field of biology and all the processes going on inside the human body so it was natural for me to go to Mount Sinai School of Medicine and get a PhD in Genetics. That lifelong curiosity about the human body still exists. Given that, the goal is to be able to understand and monitor the immune system, which is an integral part of the human body.

 

AK: What problem are you working to solve with your company, Girihlet?

AJ: Medicine is currently reactive, and we want to make it proactive. There are so many components being measured today to monitor health, but they don’t give us a clear picture of what’s going on. We think measuring your immune system is a more complete window to your health because it’s highly dynamic, predictive, and retains memories of past events. We are currently building an immune database using proprietary technology that can give us infection profiles that show your ability to fight infections before you get them

 

AK: If you could only pick one thing to validate your reason for forming a startup, what would it be? In other words, what would be the single biggest indicator to you that you are doing the right thing?

AJ: We want this technology to reach and help the general public. We were concerned that if this technology were sold it wouldn’t get to the public and reach its full potential. As the inventors, we‘re best positioned to bring this technology to the masses and have a big impact on public health.

 

AK: How do you think success can change your industry?

AJ: We want monitoring the health of the immune system to become the norm. It’s also critical that everyone would have the right to access their own health profile and information.

 

AK: How is your team uniquely able to tackle this? What’s the expertise?

AJ: Our expertise is in analyzing big data and finding patterns. We have a deep understanding of the genome, including its limitations. We’ve also built many novel sequencing technologies. There’s a lot of data being generated and analyzed in many industries. But the problem is most people aren’t generating accurate data. We have the biological expertise to be able to ask the right questions in order to get the right information. To complement that we have the ability to analyze this data to create useful applications.

 

AK: Any big lessons learned transitioning from academia to startup entrepreneurship?

AJ: As an entrepreneur it’s very important to always keep yourself connected to the science world so you don’t get lost in your work and fall behind relevant advancements. There’s no longer the scientific debate and rigor of the scientific world to keep you grounded and guided. So we’ve built a really strong scientific advisory board to make sure we don’t lose our scientific edge.

 

AK: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered so far?

AJ: Getting researchers to believe in a startup and that we’re well positioned to build technologies. We need to convey to the scientific community that together we can solve significant scientific problems and have a tangible impact on public health.

 

AK: What are the big goals and milestones you’re looking to hit in the short term? Long term?

AJ: Short term we want to validate the clinical application of our technology. We’ve started collaborating with clinicians at UCSF and Mount Sinai to further this goal. In the long term, we want to develop this valuable immune database that will help us identify patterns of health and bring it to the general public.

 

Get in touch with Anitha at anitha@girihlet.com

Creating a Functional Window to the Brain: an Interview with Henrik D. Kjeldsen of Truust Neuroimaging

Creating a Functional Window to the Brain: an Interview with Henrik D. Kjeldsen of Truust Neuroimaging

Modern neuroscience is still relying on old methods that don’t allow us to truly understand what’s happening in the brain in real-time. As a result, we have a limited understanding of brain-related disease and ability to treat conditions early.

Truust’s neuroimaging technology is providing real-time data in order to visualize energy flow in the brain, and, as a result, be able to predict and treat brain-related diseases before they start. I spoke with the Henrik, the CEO, to learn how he discovered this problem, limitations of today’s technology, and how Truust can change the field. Check out his pitch from IndieBio’s Demo Day Livestream!

 

A: Tell me about your background, how did you get interested in the biotech space?

H: I met my co-founder, Lars, about 15 years ago, while working as an electrical engineer. As a result of the computational problems presented while working on the Semantic Web I got interested in artificial intelligence and did a Master’s of AI in the Netherlands. I realized current AI approaches are not able to handle such complex problems, and we need to study real intelligence to figure it out. So I went to the UK to do a PhD in Experimental Neuroscience, where I faced a new problem; current tools are only able to see very little of what is going on in the brain. This not only makes it very difficult to understand the brain, but also makes it impossible to diagnose brain-related problems early enough to catch disease before they present with behavioral symptoms or become actual structural changes in the brain. This made us realize that we need to improve our neuroimaging tools, and based on the idea of super-resolution we initially created a solution for specialized micro-electrode arrays that worked surprisingly well. Since then I spent some time at CERN, the global leader in experimental particle physics, where I really came to understand the potential of super-resolution signal processing techniques.

 

A: What problem are you working to solve with your company, Truust?

H: A major problem in neuroscience is that we are relying on statistical analysis to understand connections in the brain since we can’t actually see real-time energy flow. With our super-resolution method, we can see the actual flow of electromagnetic energy from point A to B which means we now have a window into the living dynamic brain for the first time. So using existing EEG hardware we will collect huge amounts of data that machine learning can be applied to and understand EEG biomarkers of a wide range of brain-related problems. We envision a future with an EEG terminal in every doctor’s office as part of every physical; and the doctor does not even have to be an expert, our biomarker system is all the assistance they need.

 

A: If you could only pick one thing to validate your reason for forming a startup, what would it be? In other words, what would be the single biggest indicator to you that you are doing the right thing?

H: Seeing all different kinds of people, from random kids to experts in the field, get really excited about our prototypes visualizing energy flow in the brain, tells us that we are really doing something new at the cutting edge of understanding the brain

 

A: How do you think success can change your industry?

We are going to revolutionize neuro-imaging to make it useful and relevant to the general population and their healthcare. It will become much lower cost than current MRI and PET techniques

 

A: How is your team uniquely able to tackle this? What’s the expertise?

H: We have a unique perspective on the brain being cross-disciplinary between electrical engineering, AI, physics, and neuroscience. This allows us to take a physical and computational approach to what has traditionally been a biological problem. We have worked on these problems in one form or another for a long time, and what we are doing now is a natural culmination of that path.

 

A: Any big lessons learned transitioning  to startup entrepreneurship?

H: We’ve had the expectation fulfilled that things move very fast. We can do things much quicker than in academia or in large companies. That’s actually one of the reasons we left those to form a  startup. Things were moving very slowly. In a startup we are learning much faster since we’re able to experiment and iterate so much faster.

 

A: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered so far?

H: Talking about what we do in a way that isn’t too academic. There’s a balance between being technically correct and not being overly technical. These are new ideas that people aren’t generally familiar with, so communicating the nuances while still letting them see the big picture can be tough.

 

A: What are the big goals and milestones you’re looking to hit in the short term? Long term?

H: In the short term we want to validate our technique with a number of different labs on hard, real world problems, like better seizure localization for epilepsy. Our long term goal is to truly understand the brain, which would open up many more general applications all across medicine and research.

 

Get in touch with Henrik at henrik.kjeldsen@truustneuroimaging.com

Reprogramming Cancer and the Future of Medicine: an Interview with Andrew Gray of Vali Nanomedical

Reprogramming Cancer and the Future of Medicine: an Interview with Andrew Gray of Vali Nanomedical

Drug delivery is one of the greatest challenges in treating cancer today. There are a multitude of effective drugs that aren’t able to be delivered to tumor sites, or can not be delivered in combination.

Vali Nanomedical is now solving these drug delivery problems with a revolutionary programmable drug delivery system, and working towards a future where in vivo cellular reprogramming can cure disease without even using drugs. I talked with Andrew, Vali’s CEO, about his path to entrepreneurship, its challenges, and the future of Vali. Check out his pitch from IndieBio’s Demo Day Livestream!

 

AK: Tell me about your background, how did you get interested in the biotech space?

AG: I have PhD in molecular biology, focusing on cancer and developing cancer vaccines as a grad student. I got involved in nanotech knowing that starting a company was the goal. Early on I took a class on entrepreneurship and knew right away that was the path for me, not traditional academia. Going into startups has been really exciting since it’s been a goal for some time.

 

AK: What problem are you working to solve with your company, Vali?

AG: The biggest issue in cancer is delivering drugs to where they need to be. There are a lot of great drugs out there that can’t reach the right place or are toxic. At Vali Nanomedical, we created a programmable nanoparticle that homes onto cancer cells and releases drugs there but doesn’t harm healthy cells. It’s like making a smart missile that knows when it has missed and refuses to detonate when it’s in the wrong place.

 

AK: If you could only pick one thing to validate your reason for forming a startup, what would it be? In other words, what would be the single biggest indicator to you that you are doing the right thing?

AG: This is the first time in my entire career that I’ve felt like I’m at home. Every day flies by and is exciting.

 

AK: How do you think success can change your industry?

AG: We envision a world where drugs aren’t used at all to treat disease. Instead, we’d use our technology to reprogram cells to either return to a healthy state or, if they’re too far gone like cancer cells, reprogrammed to kill themselves. Ultimately we want to make cancer a disease of the past.

 

AK: How is your team uniquely able to tackle this? What’s the expertise?

AG: We have a fantastic team with very complementary skills. Prof. Mike Wong is a physician-scientist who has dedicated his career to finding better ways to treat cancer. As I mentioned, I’m an expert in the molecular biology of cancer. Prof. Pin Wang is an absurdly accomplished and productive biomedical engineer at USC. The founding team is backed up by industry veterans, including former director of BD at Amgen Holly Hartman and Prof. John Daniels, who literally launched an industry by inventing and commercialized collagen for injection. Between us, we have all the skills necessary to make our grand dream a reality.

 

AK: Any big lessons learned transitioning from academia to startup entrepreneurship?

AG: You have to reframe the way you talk about your work. Academics are trained to talk about the things they’re 99% sure they’ve figured out. As an entrepreneur, you talk about problems that you haven’t solved yet and demonstrate you have a plan to get there.

 

AK: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered so far?

AG: Finding the right first addition to the team. It was only by good luck and timing that I found the perfect person to add to the team. He was an amazing materials scientists named Don Johnson, who’s also a PhD.

 

AK: What are the big goals and milestones you’re looking to hit in the short term? Long term?

AG: Short term are building multiple partnerships with pharma to deliver drugs they can’t deliver now, either alone or in combination to treat cancer. We’re uniquely capable of doing combination therapies. Like I said, in the long term we want to make cancer a disease of the past.
Get in touch with Andrew at andrew.gray@valinano.com

Powering Discovery with Proteomics: an Interview with Jun Axup of MYi

Reprogramming Cancer and the Future of Medicine: an Interview with Andrew Gray of Vali Nanomedical

Next-generation DNA sequencing technology has revolutionized biological research over the last decade, but very few advancements have been made in proteomics, the next great frontier of biological data.

MYi is developing these new methods to study proteins in order to better understand, manage, and cure disease. I spoke with Jun, the company’s COO, to learn about the team’s expertise, the potential of the field of proteomics, and the impact MYi hopes to have. Check out her pitch live on February 4th on IndieBio’s Demo Day Livestream!

 

A: Tell me about your background, how did you get interested in the biotech space?

J: Our team knew each other from our time at The Scripps Research Institute, where I obtained my Ph.D. in chemical biology. I’ve always wanted to apply my work to therapeutics, but after working in that industry, I realized the slow pace of biological discovery. Leaps in innovation only happen after technological breakthroughs that make research better, faster, cheaper, and more accessible. Hence at MYi, we are doing just that.

 

A: What problem are you working to solve at your company, MYi?

J: MYi is developing high-throughput assays to look at multiple proteins in a single sample by utilizing the advancements in next-generation sequencing. Proteomic analysis today is very low-throughput and expensive because it is difficult to amplify and manipulate the signal of proteins. However, if we can bridge protein technologies with DNA technologies, like PCR and sequencing, we open up a lot of opportunities. We do this by putting DNA tags on protein-binding molecules, like antibodies. With our technology, we will enable the next wave of biological data and facilitate precision medicine.

 

A: If you could only pick one thing to validate your reason for forming a startup, what would it be? In other words, what would be the single biggest indicator to you that you are doing the right thing?

J: There are too many diseases, both common and rare, that we can’t cure or even effectively manage.  Our inability to do so is due to a major knowledge gap in our understanding of the molecular basis of these diseases.  While DNA sequencing has begun to fill in these gaps, our genetics are only a part of the story.  MYi is further filling this knowledge gap by analyzing proteins in an unbiased way to find disease patterns that no one knew were even there. Our biggest validation would be to find the root cause of an individual’s disease in a manner that would lead to an intervention.

 

A: How do you think success can change your industry?

J: Like how next-generation sequencing technologies enabled and accelerated the field of genomics, MYi hopes to bring that growth to proteomics. Furthermore, this will create a flood of data that, in combination with genomic and exome data, will inform therapeutic development.

 

A: How is your team uniquely able to tackle this? What’s the expertise?

J: Our team consists of accomplished scientists in personalized medicine and bioinformatics, like Nicholas Schork (CEO) and Kristopher Nazor (CSO), who have shown that big data approaches can advance our understanding of complex diseases such as cancer or even autism. Additionally, we have experts in bioconjugation and nucleic acid chemistry, such as Devon Cayer (CTO) and myself. We are also joined by a seasoned business officer, Maria Forero. Together, we have the technical and business experience to realize the vision that we all share.

 

A: Any big lessons learned transitioning from academia to startup entrepreneurship?

J: Being in academia and in a startup are actually very similar: long hours, low pay, drive to innovate, and responsibilities to funding agencies (grants/journals vs investors/customers). The biggest difference is that in a startup you are a part of a team that is all running towards the same goal. The camaraderie and support is invaluable.

 

A: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered so far?

J: Running a biotech startup in a lean manner has been very challenging. Unlike software-based companies, biology has a lot of overhead in lab space, consumables, and operational logistics that are both expensive and time-consuming. It’s a huge challenge to juggle the science, business, customer acquisition, and funding all at once while under a time crunch. But that’s also why this stage of a startup is the most fun and exciting.

 

A: What are the big goals and milestones you’re looking to hit in the short term? Long term?

J: The first major milestone is to get our first assay kit on the market. From there we hope to scale, create follow-up products, and partner with other organizations to develop diagnostics and therapeutics.
Get in touch with Jun at jun@myidiagnostics.com

Bringing Space Technology to Healthcare: an Interview with Jeff Nosanov of V-Sense Medical

Bringing Space Technology to Healthcare: an Interview with Jeff Nosanov of V-Sense Medical

Tracking vital signs is a crucial means for preventing disease. However, it’s a big time demand on caretakers of the most vulnerable patients and rarely done for much of the general population.

V-Sense is developing monitors using NASA Jet Propulsion Lab radar technology to remotely and continuously monitor key vital signs. I talked to the company’s CEO, Jeff Nosanov, about learning how to apply this new technology, lessons moving from research to startups, and goals for V-Sense. Check out his pitch live on February 4th on IndieBio’s Demo Day Livestream!

 

A: Tell me about your background, how did you get interested in the biotech space?

J: I always wanted to be an astronaut and started college in engineering because of this. I later switched out to approach the space world from a different angle and got the first ever Space and Telecommunication Law degree. That got me my job at NASA Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) testing clinical application for a new radar technology. My biotech interest started in 2012 after my newborn was in the NICU for a week and we kept having problems with his vital sign monitors. I found out this is a very common issue in medicine and almost considered commonplace, which I thought was really strange and unfortunate. I knew the technology I was involved with could remotely measure vitals and realized it would be very helpful for this application. Then when my second child was born and had the exact same problem in the NICU, I got a really passionate about applying this technology to medicine. When we moved to Bethesda for my wife’s residency I left NASA and had the freedom to pursue this startup and technology.

 

A: What problem are you working to solve with your company, V-Sense?

J: Understaffing is a huge problem in nursing homes across the US. Due to this nurses and staff can’t measure vital signs on schedule and as often as needed. This results in missing a lot of important information on patients that could improve quality of care and save money. We’re automating this time-consuming task which is a win for everyone. As we expand into consumer homes we can provide the same service to millions more people.

 

A: If you could only pick one thing to validate your reason for forming a startup, what would it be? In other words, what would be the single biggest indicator to you that you are doing the right thing?

J: I’m really excited about the day I get a call from our first customer that says we saved someone’s life because of our device.

 

A: How do you think success can change your industry?

J: For five years at the JPL I would hear from my wife, who was in medical school,  how some techniques doctors use are brand new and others are two thousand years old. We often have a big gap between techniques doctors are using and what modern technology can do. I’m interested in bringing more advanced technology to medicine via the rapid innovation possible in a startup. There’s a lot of great technology sitting in research labs throughout the country but no one is having the light bulb moment to apply it. I want to see more innovative medical technology coming out of space technology research.

 

A: How is your team uniquely able to tackle this? What’s the expertise?

J: I spent two years working with the team that invented this technology, mostly looking at how to apply it clinically. So I’ve been working with this technology and its users for years. My CTO, Hector, spent over a decade at JPL working on tons of radar technologies and applications. After that, he did a lot of product consulting and is perfectly positioned to bring this technology out to the world. Plus, we still have access to JPL and the tremendous minds working there.

 

A: Any big lessons learned transitioning from research to startup entrepreneurship?

J: The power of going out and directly talking to your customers. It’s not really clear who our customer is with research since we don’t know if our technology will reach the outside world. In business we can go out and ask the user to design it with us and how to make it as useful as possible for them.

 

A: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered so far?

J: The medical community is fairly conservative, for understandable reasons. It can be a challenge to communicate possibilities of radar technology since they aren’t trained to know its nuances and applications. We have to communicate in a collaborative manner to explain the potential and value of this new way of doing what they already do. Having a wife who’s a physician has been really helpful since I can interact with and learn from so many different physicians.

 

A: What are the big goals and milestones you’re looking to hit in the short term? Long term?

J: Raising another round of funding that allows us to get to market in the nursing home space. Once we do that we’ll be reaching a sufficient install base so that the data gathered can be used to predict medical events for nursing home patients. From there we’re releasing a consumer product for the home that does the same thing.

 

Get in touch with Jeff at jeff@vsensemedical.com

Disrupting Seafood, Not Oceans: an Interview with Dominique Barnes of New Wave Foods

Disrupting Seafood, Not Oceans: an Interview with Dominique Barnes of New Wave Foods

As the population keeps growing, we are increasingly turning to our oceans to feed a hungry world. This pressure is leading to unsustainable practices that damage ecosystems and our health.

New Wave Foods is creating healthy and sustainable plant and algae-based seafood to meet this growing demand. I talked to the company’s CEO, Dominique Barnes, to learn more about this issue, her team’s expertise, and how New Wave Foods can change how we eat. Check out her pitch live on February 4th on IndieBio’s Demo Day Livestream!

 

A: Tell me about your background, how did you get interested in the biotech space?

My background is in Marine Conservation and hospitality. I saw biotech as a way to solve overfishing pressures on our oceans.

 

A: What problem are you working to solve with your company, New Wave Foods?

We’re working to solve the global issue of feeding over 10 billion people by 2050. The current seafood supply chains are riddled with unsustainable practices. The growing demand for fish, which has surpassed beef, is putting pressures on suppliers to find ways to produce more. There’s also a big lack of transparency in the seafood industry. As a result, consumers don’t really know what they’re buying, and that it is not as healthy as they’re led to believe. It’s also creating massive social injustices where slave labor is being used to meet demand. We saw all these problems and wanted to find a way to supply the world with sustainable, ethical, healthy, and delicious seafood.

 

A: If you could only pick one thing to validate your reason for forming a startup, what would it be? In other words, what would be the single biggest indicator to you that you are doing the right thing?

D: Sales. Seeing people buying this new sustainable product would be huge validation. I’m from Las Vegas so it would be great to see a shrimp cocktail made from our products. Eventually, I’d love to see an all you can eat seafood buffet that’s all made by NWF.

 

A: How do you think success can change your industry?

D: Increasing awareness of all the issues with our current food supply. We can create a product that’s better than what’s being offered in a manner that’s good for consumers and the planet. We want to make it easy for people to make the healthy choice for themselves and the planet.

 

A: How is your team uniquely able to tackle this? What’s the expertise?

D: I have extensive knowledge, background, and a passion for marine life and conservation. It’s always been my life’s goal to do something that benefits our oceans. After earning a master’s in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, I saw that entrepreneurialism was a way to solve this problem and make a positive impact. Michelle, my co-founder and CTO, has a master’s in material engineering from Carnegie Mellon, which is vital since this is really an engineering problem of texture. How do yo use materials like plants and algae to build seafood? She uses her expertise and knowledge to make great products. We have really complementary skill sets that balance each other out.

 

A: Any big lessons learned transitioning to startup entrepreneurship?

D: Flexibility is the word that comes to mind. You can’t be rigid in your thought process or path. It’s important to be open and listen to a lot of different opinions and advice. Though ultimately it’s your decision, so be true to what you set out to do.

 

A: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered so far?

D: There are so many when creating a startup. The biggest challenge here is getting people to accept algae as a food since it has a negative connotation in the food world. We have to educate people that algae is actually a big reason why our seafood is healthy, sustainable, and delicious.

 

A: What are the big goals and milestones you’re looking to hit in the short term? Long term?

D: Short-term we’re moving into collaborative kitchens and getting our product to local catering companies that we’re working with. In the long term, we want to be in grocery stores nationally and internationally. So scaling our product to get to that level in the next 5 years.

Taking Control of Cellular Protein Output: an Interview with Paul Feldstein of Circularis

Taking Control of Cellular Protein Output: an Interview with Paul Feldstein of Circularis

Cellular protein production is used across industries to create products for medicine, consumers, research, and more. However, the technology to do so in the most efficient and effective ways has lagged behind production.

Circularis is using their expertise in discovering, analyzing, and evolving cellular promoters in order to regulate protein production with revolutionary precision. I talked to the company’s CEO, Paul Feldstein, about his team’s expertise, taking this advanced technology from academia to startups, and how Circularis will push biotech forward. Check out his pitch live on February 4th on IndieBio’s Demo Day Livestream!

 

A: Tell me about your background, how did you get involved in the biotech space?

P: I received my PhD at UC Davis in biochemistry and worked in one of the pioneering ribozyme (catalytic RNA) labs. So my background is in RNA biochemistry, and I have been working on research with the most primitive molecular parasites. These are made of RNA, are even simpler than viruses, and have led to the development of useful molecular tools.

 

A: What problem are you working to solve with your company, Circularis?

P: For years we’ve been thinking about better ways to find promoters since the current tools are cumbersome and hard to work with. Our technology can discover, analyze, and evolve promoters. There’s a lot we can do with that. We can regulate protein production to increase or decrease cellular output. We can do diagnostics to see how cells change in disease states. We can do therapeutics. Ultimately, a cell has to turn on a genetic program to respond to signals and that program is driven by promoters.

 

A: If you could only pick one thing to validate your reason for forming a startup, what would it be? In other words, what would be the single biggest indicator to you that you are doing the right thing?

P: We want to help great companies become even better. There are a lot of companies that are making proteins and facing challenges. We think we can make them better and drive the field of biotech forward.

 

A: How do you think success can change your industry?

P: Microbes, plant, and animal cells are precision instruments that everyone is trying to manipulate. Right now the whole field of biotech is trying to use sledgehammers to control these small precise instruments. We’re making precision tools to actually control cells effectively.

 

A: How is your team uniquely able to tackle this? What’s the expertise?

P: My experience in biochemistry is allowing us to develop the fundamental technology. Jim and LeAnn know how to apply it to plant and animal cells. We have decades of experience developing these tools from scratch and working together.

 

A: Any big lessons learned transitioning from academia to startup entrepreneurship?

P: It’s an entirely different world. I’m used to being judged only on the basis of the science in academia. In startups people think the science is interesting, but they really want to know how we’re going to make money and be a viable company. This a big learning curve and means we’re learning a totally different language. Academics talk for a long time about details, and here we’re giving five-minute pitches to explain everything.

 

A: What are the big goals and milestones you’re looking to hit in the short term? Long term?

P: In the short term we aim to successfully complete our pilot projects and develop longer term ongoing business relationships with our customers. In the long term, we want to expand our repertoire of organisms that we work on from only microbes to include mammalian and plant cells.

 

Get in touch with Paul at pafeldstein@circularisbiotech.com

Bringing Science to Beauty: an Interview with Evelyn Chen of Nerd Skincare

Bringing Science to Beauty: an Interview with Evelyn Chen of Nerd Skincare

The science of skincare hasn’t changed for 100 years. As we learn more about the skin, new opportunities for innovation are being uncovered that will shift the industry’s approach to beauty.

Nerd Skincare is leveraging these advancements in science to innovate safer and better skincare products. I talked to the company’s CEO, Evelyn Chen, to learn her story, how Nerd is shifting skincare perspectives, and plans for the future. Check out her pitch live on February 4th on IndieBio’s Demo Day Livestream!

 

A: Tell me about your background, how did you get interested in the biotech space?

E: I studied molecular cellular biology and have a biomedical engineering degree from Columbia. I grew up in the beauty industry and have always been passionate about innovation and bringing science to the beauty industry and skincare products.

 

A: What problem are you working to solve with your company, Nerd Skincare?

E: We want to use the beneficial bacteria that live on us to better our skin. Before 2009 very few people were aware of how big a role bacteria play in our physiology. At Nerd, we design proprietary organic compounds that enhance certain desired bacterial metabolic pathways and, as a result, have beneficial effects on the skin. For example, there are bacteria that can reverse photo damage, promote fat tissue growth, and suppress pathogens. These are basically probiotics for the skin and can be used for cosmetic effects.

 

A: If you could only pick one thing to validate your reason for forming a startup, what would it be? In other words, what would be the single biggest indicator to you that you are doing the right thing?

E: Happy customers who are getting safer and better products.

 

A: How do you think success can change your industry?

E: It will make the cosmetics industry more transparent. And people will start to look at their skin and their relationships with skin care products differently. We used to categorize the skin into four types – dry, oily, combination, and sensitive. We want to figure out what healthy skin microbiome types look like, which is way more broad than the current four types, and help everyone reach their best skin condition.

 

A: How is your team uniquely able to tackle this? What’s the expertise?

E: We are a very diverse team who come from aerospace science, biomedical engineering, molecular biology, bioinformatics, economics, and design. We share the same passion and goal to reinvent the beauty category.

 

A: Any big lessons learned transitioning from research to startup entrepreneurship?

E: There’s a huge gap between small scale research in the lab and scaling up in mass production.  It would definitely have saved us a lot of time if we had paid more attention to designing our manufacturing earlier.

 

A: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered so far?

E: Paid advertising can only do so much, especially when we don’t have a huge marketing budget. Figuring out how to engineer a viral loop is fun and challenging for us.

 

What are the big goals and milestones you’re looking to hit in the short term? Long term?

We’re launching a closed beta test on our skin microbiome test kit in March. Our longer term goal is to be able to determine healthy skin microbiome types and help shift undesirable skin to healthier states.

 

Sign up for Nerd’s beta to get your skin microbiome type!

Get in touch with Evelyn at evelyn@nerdskincare.com

Building the Next Generation of Recombinant Proteins: an Interview with Alex Lorestani of Geltor

Building the Next Generation of Recombinant Proteins: an Interview with Alex Lorestani of Gelzen

The list of uses for recombinant proteins continues to grow as they are used in consumer, medical, and research markets. This increased use means that issues of scale, cost, and output efficiency  must be addressed.

Geltor is creating a new recombinant protein production platform to solve these problems. I talked to the company’s CEO, Alex Lorestani, about the experiences that led him to this problem, transitioning to the startup world, and the future of Geltor. Check out his pitch live on February 4th on IndieBio’s Demo Day Livestream!

 

AK: Tell me about your background, how did you become interested in the biotech space?

AL: Before starting Geltor, I was in a physician-scientist training program. My focus was on infectious diseases, specifically on antibiotic-resistant bacteria. When I learned that more than 70% of all antibiotics used in the US are deployed on animal factory farms, I began to appreciate the tremendous impact that this process had on human health. Since then, a body of evidence supporting the flow of antibiotic-resistant pathogens from farms into communities has emerged. I saw replacing animal-derived proteins with recombinant proteins as a powerful tool in addressing this global issue.

 

AK: What problem are you working to solve with your company, Geltor?

AL: Recombinant proteins are critical to the post-animal bioeconomy. They’re also notoriously difficult and expensive to manufacture. At Geltor, we developed a recombinant protein production platform to build essential proteins at a low cost. Our first product is animal-free gelatin which we make from scratch by programming microbes to build it for us. It’s the same approach that humans use to brew beer, make insulin, and many other animal-free products. Rather than dumping animal scraps into acid or alkaline baths to extract collagen, we took the collagen building machinery of animals and moved it into microbes. We can produce gelatin at a massive scale, eliminate the risk of pathogens, precisely engineer key properties, and greatly improve resource efficiency.

 

AK: If you could only pick one thing to validate your reason for forming a startup, what would it be? In other words, what would be the single biggest indicator to you that you are doing the right thing?

AL: Customers finding us. That started two months ago. There’s real pain out there, and we’re working hard to fix it.

 

AK: How do you think success can change your industry?

AL: Succeeding would change the field by allowing people make new things with proteins that weren’t previously possible. We do that by allowing rapid iteration and massive scaling. All of which can be done economically. On the food side, people can make fundamentally new materials when they use biology, rather than being constrained by nature.

 

AK: How is your team uniquely able to tackle this? What’s the expertise?

AL: We are microbial physiologists and think deeply about building better microbes.

 

AK: Any big lessons learned transitioning from academia to startup entrepreneurship?

AL: We had to learn that the business of science is much more focused on product than academia. In academia it’s all about the problem driving what you do. In the business of science, the product drives what you do.

 

AK: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered so far?

AL: Transitioning from having science at the center of everything I do to having customers at the center of everything I do.

 

AK: What are the big goals and milestones you’re looking to hit in the short term? Long term?

AL: In the short term we’re building an amazing team and scaling our production platform up. In the long term, the goal is to make old products better with our own technology and also make entirely new products.

 

Get in touch with Alex at alex@geltor.com

Putting Biological Supercomputers in the Palm of your Hand: an Interview with Oshiorenoya Agabi of Koniku

Putting Biological Supercomputers in the Palm of your Hand: an Interview with Oshiorenoya Agabi of Koniku

As ambitions to create newer and faster supercomputers grow, so do the challenges. Increasing computational power comes with demands of scale, stability, and accessibility.

Koniku is a startup working to solve this by harnessing the power of biological neurons to create the next generation of supercomputers. I talked with Koniku’s CEO, Oshiorenoya E. Agabi, about his story, goals for Koniku, and changing the science of computation. Check out his pitch live on February 4th on IndieBio’s Demo Day Livestream!

 

A: Tell me about your background, how did you get interested in the biotech space?

O: I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria where I also did my bachelors. While getting my master’s in physics I remember a Russian professor telling me that if I wanted to make an impact I needed to go to a field where not a lot has been done and there’s opportunity to quantify everything. Following his advice, I took a course in neuroscience and knew right away this was it. Since then I’ve been working in computational neuroscience – quantifying how neurons function, engineering how to talk to them, and building tech out of them. After writing my master’s thesis on using biological neurons to do computation, I went to Imperial College in London to do my PhD in Computational Neuroscience and Bioengineering. That’s where I founded Koniku.

 

A: What problem are you working to solve with your company, Koniku?

O: The question is how to build a truly cognitive system. To do larger applications, we currently have to build massive and unscalable server farms. If we ever want to get to the point of doing significant computations we have to move away from the silicon paradigm. Koniku eventually aims to build a device that is capable of thinking in the biological sense, like a human being. We think we can do this in the next two to five years. We’re currently engineering neurons such that they are sensitive to particles in parts per trillion. With our computational backend, we’ll have a device that can be used for particle detection and be used for industrial, military, and agricultural application.

 

A: If you could only pick one thing to validate your reason for forming a startup, what would it be? In other words, what would be the single biggest indicator to you that you are doing the right thing?

O: We want to prove  we can connect to neurons and structure biological systems, and have the ability to package that.

 

A: How do you think success can change your field?

O: If we’re just 60% successful as a company, we’ll change computing as we know it. We’ll see a massive shift away from the silicon computing industry. Similar to what silicon did for the information age, we’ll do this for biotech.

 

A: How is your team uniquely able to tackle this? What’s the expertise?

O: We have a wealth of business and technical experience and expertise. This is a massive undertaking so we are still looking for more people with experience in computational neuroscience.

 

A: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered so far?

O: In the near term it has been delivering game-changing devices and generating early revenue. We don’t want to just move fast and break things, we want to deliver an amazing product at the same time. Since we’re building a device we can’t just update it as needed. It has to perform exceptionally well every time a customer or user buys a product. We want to deliver an exponential advantage.

 

A: What are the big goals and milestones you’re looking to hit in the short term? Long term?

O: In the short term we would like to start delivering our sensing controls and computing devices to customers in the aviation and pharma sectors that have signed with us. We want to deliver an amazing product.

Our long-term goal is building a strong user base that lets other people make money off our devices. In the next two to five years we want this base of people programming and building separate applications for our device. It will be a true platform technology that people can build secondary products out of.

 

Get in touch with Osh at agabi@koniku.uk

Creating a pick and place machine for DNA synthesis: an interview with Jeff Clayton of Genesis DNA

Creating a pick and place machine for DNA synthesis: an interview with Jeff Clayton of Genesis DNA

In recent years we’ve seen an exponential ability to sequence DNA. What in the recent past it cost billions of dollars is now available for under one thousand dollars. However, the cost of synthesizing new DNA is still prohibitive and causing bottlenecks in research and industry.

Genesis DNA is working to create new methods to standardize DNA synthesis and make it cheaper, faster, and more reliable. I talked to the company’s CEO, Jeff Clayton, about his background, lessons from creating a start up, and Genesis DNA’s goals. Check out his pitch live on February 4th on IndieBio’s Demo Day Livestream!

 

Tell me about your background—how did you get interested in the biotech space?

I started off in chemistry as an undergrad since I always had an interest in biochem and biology, but ultimately went in the engineering direction for grad school since I thought there were a lot of opportunity for devices. I saw merging silicon and biological systems as a way to get the best of both worlds. My co-founder, David, also has a chemistry background but went more towards bio-engineering. The idea of Genesis DNA was born from a combination of his expertise in biology and mine in engineering.

 

What problem are you working to solve with your company, Genesis DNA?

We are developing a next-gen platform for DNA synthesis to standardize the process of assembling genes. The current assembly process is unpredictable. Every time you want to build a gene you have to design and build all the building blocks. This makes it difficult to know how long it will take and how successful a particular build will be. By standardizing the process it becomes easier and more cost effective to build custom DNA sequences.

 

If you could only pick one thing to validate your reason for forming a startup, what would it be? In other words, what would be the single biggest indicator to you that you are doing the right thing?

Our customer testimonials. It’d be a lot more difficult to work on this problem if we didn’t have people telling us all the time that today’s tools are still inadequate. We’ve heard from almost every biotech company that we’ve talked to that the ability to write DNA has become a huge bottleneck for research.

 

How do you think success can change your industry?

A great tool for DNA synthesis can do for biology what great microfabrication tools did for electronics. They increase freedom of design and make ideas more accessible and affordable to explore.

 

How is your team uniquely able to tackle this? What’s the expertise?

Ultimately we’re building a tool that builds biology so the expertise needed is heavy on both the biology and engineering sides. Which our team has.

 

Any big lessons learned transitioning from academia to startup entrepreneurship?

At IndieBio we’ve parallelized our research much more than we ever did in grad school. In a startup you don’t have the luxury of trying one thing at a time and waiting like in academia. This has been a really gratifying experience because you can achieve a lot of key metrics and get key results much faster.

 

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered so far?

Besides the tech, learning how to effectively communicate science and its significance to the outside world. It’s not something you get a lot of practice at doing in academia.

 

What are the big goals and milestones you’re looking to hit in the short term? Long term?

In the short term we’re aiming to validate our chemistry for the synthesis of a short DNA sequence. Our ultimate goal is to greatly simplify the way researchers get DNA. We want it to be delivered in less than a week for simple or complex sequences and an order of magnitude cheaper than what is currently available.

 

Get in touch with Jeff at jeff@genesisdna.com

Unlocking Gene Therapy for the Masses: an interview with Ryan Pawell of Indee

Unlocking Gene Therapy for the Masses: an interview with Ryan Pawell of Indee

The science of gene therapy poses one of the greatest technical challenges in modern medicine. Researchers and industry face the significant challenge of introducing new functioning genes into cells, and doing so in a scalable and affordable manner.

Indee is a biotech startup developing new tools for gene therapy to bring it to the masses. They’re  currently part of IndieBio’s second class of startups. I talked to the company’s CEO, Ryan Pawell, about his story, transitioning to entrepreneurship, and the future of Indee. Check out his pitch live on February 4th on IndieBio’s Demo Day Livestream!

 

A: Tell me about your background, how did you get interested in the biotech space?

R: I have a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. My senior project was developing tools for cervical spinal surgeries, and I also worked for a couple years on portable oxygen concentrators to treat breathing disorders like COPD. I realized I wanted to get into stem cells, and thought microfluidics was a good route since it was a high value and low-cost tech for stem cell manufacturing with good potential business models. All that led me to do a Microfluidics PhD in Australia.

 

A: What problem are you working to solve with your company, Indee?

R: Indee is solving scalable gene delivery. This is really important for gene therapy since right now scales are limited to just a few thousand wealthy patients per year. Creating a scalable process can treat tens of millions of people that die from multiple diseases every year.

 

A: If you could only pick one thing to validate your reason for forming a startup, what would it be? In other words, what would be the biggest indicator that you are doing the right thing?

R: I just don’t like having a boss. My first job was working for myself, and it was more rewarding and flexible. The whole point of this startup is to work on something that helps other people while enjoying the benefits of self-employment. Right now at an early stage startup there aren’t really any benefits of self-employment [laughs].

 

A: How do you think success can change your industry?

R: We’re looking to ultimately manufacture these life-changing therapeutics for tens of millions of people every year.

 

A: How is your team uniquely able to tackle this? What’s the expertise?

R: Our team consists of two full-time employees (myself included), eight advisors, some high-value contractors, and IndieBio/SOSV. Our expertise is in both microfluidics, fluid dynamics, and cell biology. My co-founder, Matt, handles the biology and business development. I do the engineering and operations. Having a co-founder with complementary and effective skillsets has made a huge difference.

 

A: Any big lessons learned transitioning from academia to startup entrepreneurship?

R: Startups are exciting, challenging, and fast-paced. Academia… not so much.

 

A: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered so far?

R: It can be tough to stay on top of everything. We have a great two person team but when the work piles up three would be nice [laughs].

 

A: What are the big goals and milestones you’re looking to hit in the short term? Long term?

R: Our big goals are to verify our technology and sign our next investment. In the short term we want to show gene editing and be able to process 10,000 samples a week. This is proof of concept for a 50-fold improvement over current manufacturing scales without spending 43 million dollars for a manufacturing plant, because we don’t have that. In the long term we’d like to use that system to manufacture 10,000 therapeutics per week so we could treat half a million patients per year.

 

Get in touch with Ryan at rpawell@indeetx.com

Blending Life and Computer Science – R. Machiraju

Blending Life and Computer Science – R. Machiraju

I believe that computing shall be even more pervasive and ubiquitous than it is today

and will evolve into a high-impact, use-inspired basic science1. Over the last seven decades,

we have seen the beginning of a major technological revolution, the Information Revolution.

Many of us who are middle-aged or part of the baby-boomer generation have been witness to

this growth. The last decade has especially seen computing emerge from its strongholds in

engineering and the mathematical sciences and has diffused not only into all corners of

academia (biology, social sciences, humanities, etc.) but also more impressively into quotidian

life. It is the latter aspect that will drive computer science and provide even more growth

opportunities. Witness the growth of companies like Google, which have made search and to

google an overloaded and essential verb. The social impact of computing is at its all time high

and its ubiquity and pervasiveness will only grow. In my opinion, growth will be in democratized

iComputing: computing for everybody and by everybody.

 

We are at the confluence of many perfect storms of opportunity. Processing and storage

hardware is cheap and is increasingly available in the cloud. Mobile and traditional

communication systems and the Internet connect us and our embedded devices, our vehicles,

our homes, and our offices into a global matrix. Yet, I believe we have seen only the tip of the

iceberg.

 

Therefore, computer science will be better served if it considers itself to be a broad

discipline with a myriad of interacting components and not just a slew of vertical silos wherein

practitioners design and build compilers, operating systems, architectures, and graphics

systems, while some propound algorithms and theory. It must also rely on disciplines other than

mathematics (e.g. physics, statistics) for intellectual succor. I increasingly believe that computer

science is a use-inspired science with a high-impact footprint where many sub-disciplines are

applied to solve problems. Use and value will drive the discipline of computer science. Further,

in the age of austerity and growth in the developing world, there will be an emphasis on use-

based research and development. Still, there will be a place for fundamental and basic work.

Consider this. Louis Pasteur, a founding father of modern microbiology, began his quest with

the more basic need of preserving food2. I believe that computer science will also head this

way, use-driven and use-inspired yet innate to the human experience.

 

In marked contrast to the early formative years of computer science, which overlapped

with the ebb and flow of cold war funding and patronages, the eco-system of today is

dramatically different. Computer science will not be just driven by the next new hammer that is

invented at the behest of high priests or driven by plain curiosity. However, there will be

incentives in finding nails everywhere around us, like geocachers, to construct new hammers or

adopt existing hammers. Consider Google’s PageRank algorithm. It should be noted that the

original and well-touted PageRank algorithm or hammer had a purported use. With the passage

of a decade, the venerable algorithm has to also act as an honest broker, thus bringing in

additional constraints to search and a rethinking of the mathematical and algorithmic

underpinnings.

 

I have followed this mantra in my own work. I embedded myself increasingly in the

physical and biological sciences by learning the subtleties and nuances of the other science and

realizing scalable, and robust methods and workflows. The interpretable and actionable end-

result – vortices in unsteady flow, distinction between dyscalculics from normal subjects, robust

subtypes of triple negative breast cancer – is paramount rather than the singular method. Often

new basic methods or foundational principles had to be discovered or re-invented within the

constraints of the user-science. Robust engineering practices already achieve this two-step

tango; computer science will increasingly adopt the same tango as it increasingly addresses the

needs of the larger population.

 

Computational modeling and data analysis will play an important role in defining salient

processes and associations that can be stored and processed in portable, scalable, and robust

prototypes and systems. These systems will be deployed in a multitude of human-centric

applications that in turn parlay human sensory perception and more usefully cognition. This is

my utopian albeit utilitarian view of computer science.

 

The role of mathematics and statistics especially in the age of Big Data cannot be

understated. Foundational work in theoretical regimes will continue; the increased emphasis on

high-dimensional and probabilistic learning algorithms offers one example. Similarly, 3D printing

and novel manufacturing processes could not have become a reality without the pioneering

work of geometer Prof. Herbert Edelsbrunner and many others. New systems and programming

languages will also be required. The growth of graphical processing units and probability

processors (Lyric Labs) will only usher expedited growth in hitherto unexplored application

areas. There will always be a need for compilers for all these specialized solutions; the

demands of a probabilistic language where a variable carries the semantics of a distribution will

require some deliberation. Human-computer interaction will be even more stressed and

text/speech/image/video/ processing will be eventually woven into a single tapestry of a user

interface.

 

Applications will form the inter-disciplinary bridges to others in social sciences,

engineering, and medicine and it is through applications that the user plays an important role.

Personalized medicine and all the associated advancements in the physical and biological

sciences will require a bigger role from computing software and infrastructure, while traditional

consumers in enterprise computing, finance, weather prediction, etc. will continue to place even

more demands on real-time services and storage.

 

In academia, there will be more branches and rivulets. Cybersecurity, systems biology,

finance, fluid dynamics, medical imaging, neuroscience, etc. already vie for attention from

academics in various departments of computer science. E-governance, social media, social

innovation, and smart cities will follow, especially spurred by the availability of Big Data3. Each

of these inter-disciplinary growth opportunities will lead to a reexamination of cross-disciplinary

fault lines and new flurry of research will ensue. The exact shape and form of these changes will

depend on the local academic, business and cultural environment.

 

The delivery of curriculum will also experience a sea change. There is certainly an

interest in all things computing; we have seen this in burgeoning enrollments at both university

and K-12 levels. Some of the new improvements will be of vocational nature. It is therefore not

surprising that one speaks of imparting the three Rs and C to the uninitiated4. Similarly, there

will be an increased emphasis on active learning in flipped classroom settings where students

actually engage in problem solving while being part of collaborative teams. This pedagogical

approach is increasingly shown to be effective in more general settings5. In many settings,

computer science is already taught in this manner and is likely to become the norm.

In closing, it is my opinion that computer science will adopt a utilitarian face and will

make even greater forays into interdisciplinary ventures while strengthening all components in a

cross-disciplinary fashion. By placing computer science squarely in Pasteur’s quadrant2,

practitioners can engage in a rigorous albeit a very relevant science and in essence enable

computer science to play an even more important role in modern life and human civilization.

 

This is a guest post by Raghu Machiraju, CEO, Abiobot (IndieBio Alumni). Raghu also serves on the faculty at Ohio State University in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.  He also has an appointment in the College of Medicine at OSU.  His interests include image analysis and visualization especially as they apply to topics in biology, medicine and engineering. Over the years he also been increasingly working on problems of computationally biology and bioinformatics.

1 Marc Snir, Communications of the ACM, ViewPoints, Vol. 54, No. 3, March 2011.

2 Stuart Cantrill, Speaking Frankly: The allure of Pasteur’s quadrant, The Sceptical Chymist, July 7, 2013.

3 Data Science for Social Good, 20th ACM SIGKDD Conference, http://www.kdd.org/kdd2014.

4 Leah Hoffman, Computer Science and the Three Rs, Communications of the ACM, Vol. 55, No. 12, October 2012.

5 Freeman et al. Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics, PNAS,

doi: 10.1073/pnas.1319030111

IndieBio and SpaceGAMBIT – Announce Partnership to Accelerate Space Biology

IndieBio and SpaceGAMBIT - Announce Partnership to Accelerate Space Biology

Today we’re delighted to announce our partnership withSpaceGAMBIT to accelerate Space Biology, we believe one of the weakest links in making humanity a multi-planetary species is the understanding and development of biotechnologies which could be deployed in every aspect of life in space.

In this partnership, IndieBio will be supportingSpaceGAMBIT with open source capacity building biotechnologies that have potential applications in space and SpaceGambit will be supporting IndieBio in developing novel biotechnologies that could have novel applications in space but would require experienced space industry partners.

SpaceGAMBIT democratizes space technology by funding open-source projects that tackle everything holding us back from being a spacefaring species. They work with partners and the maker movement to find out what’s keeping us stuck on Earth, engage the crowd to find solutions, and share the results with the world. They’ve worked with NASA and the White House, and are now adding IndieBio to their list of partners to help hack humanity to the stars.

Onwards and Upwards from your friends at IndieBio and SpaceGAMBIT!

http://www.spacegambit.org/

http://sf.indie.bio/

#RedefiningBillionaire

#RedefiningBillionaire

I was recently inspired by Jason Silva’s Captains of Spaceship Earth:

“First we build the tools and then the tools build us”

Biology, as a technology is accelerating, the technology that builds us and our environment, what many people don’t realize is that we use it everywhere and it’s only just beginning.

From the moment you wake up, you use biology, it’s used to build the fibers of the sheets you sleep on, the coal/oil that’s burnt to power your lights, it’s in the food you eat (yes, even in your cornflakes with GMO corn), it’s also in the toothpaste you use and the vitamins that you take and that’s just before you’ve left your house, we haven’t yet begun in earnest with using biology as a next generation manufacturing platform.

What’s coming next are improvements, lots and lots of improvements for all on this planet through, expanding outside of the world of biomedical innovation into everything else.

Scientists are now becoming founders and entrepreneurs, creating incredibly exciting companies, Bolt Threads recently announced a successful $40M fundraising round to create an entirely new type of material, bioengineered spider’s silk, which is 10x stronger than steel per weight, the new products possible are almost endless and that’s just one new material, in an almost unlimited space of biology.

The pace of innovation in biotechnology is exceeding the pace of Moore’s law in terms of cost reductions, not just in genomic sequencing but in automation. Transcriptic, an automated lab has led to a 3x reduction in the cost of plant genetic engineering per YEAR at TAXA (a plant engineering startup best known for making glowing plants), as a reminder, Moore’s law is JUST a doubling every two years, accelerated biology smokes Moore’s law.

We’ve also seen the success of company’s like Novozymes (a billion $+ revenue company) and Zymergen (which just raised $44M to build the next generation of molecular factories) and so my question is, how can we redefine the idea of a billionaire to one in which a billionaire is someone who has positively impacted the lives of over a billion people? The answer lies in the scientist entrepreneurs which are emerging and building the next generation of biotechnologies.

We’d love to hear your ideas, how can we help you build a biotech company to help a billion+ people? Apply to us at sf.indie.bio and we’ll support pioneers with $250k in funding (including a lab and a razor sharp focus on building products, your company and your science).

Here’s our chance to #RedefineBillionare

Reimagining the Future with Biology

Reimagining the Future with Biology

Today, Bolt Threads, previously Refactored Materials announced that they’d raised $40M in their latest round of financing and expect to have their yeast derived spiders silk (10x stronger than steel per weight) available for sale by 2016.

The new Bolt Threads biomaterial will have applications we can only now dream of and likely many, we have yet to dream and this is only the beginning of the new bioeconomy that’s being built around us, in university, commercial and biohacker labs around the world.

Over the last four months, our first IndieBio class in San Francisco (IB1), we’ve seen what’s possible when scientists, innovators and pioneers join together to accelerate how we build our world with biology.Amazing companies, products and services have been built in a spirit of camaraderie and collaboration (both within the first cohort and with the broader community) which is stark contrast to many of the innovation silos we’ve all experienced in academia and industry.

Our first time founders have worked side by side with each other and veteran entrepreneurs and scientists (across all industries) to reimagine a world in which previously intractable problems might now be solved with applied biology.

  • Pembient has shaken up the world of Rhino conservation by challenging the status quo, sometimes education isn’t enough, if you have an approach which is failing, change it.
  • Clara Foods is helping us to reimagine food with beautiful and delicious Meringues, to start with, which have excited Chef’s globally as a new way to innovating in the kitchen humanely!
  • Extem are powering regenerative medicine with the first and most extensive global stem cell bank, supplying researchers globally with the cells they need to deliver on the promise of regenerative medicine, helping patients in dire need.
  • Arcturus Biocloud have launched the first consumer biotech cloud service, enabling applied biology and science from anywhere with a simple user interface with users signed up on the platform from over 100+ cities globally (and growing).

These are only a few of the companies who you’ll see presenting on our first Demo day, June 11th, in San Francisco, in which we invite you to attend, our general admissions are now sold out due to massive interest but this event is also for the broader global community and will be live streamed, so whether you’re in SF, Mumbai, London or further afield we invite you to join us! We’ll be sharing our livestream calendar invite on @indbio soon!

If you’re a scientist, entrepreneur or biohacker and have a re-imagined vision of the future, built with applied biology that you’re currently working on or would like to build, we’d also love to invite you to apply for our $250k funding package, we’ll be funding our next class of 15 new companies in SF in September and our first early applications deadline is June 30th 2015, get your application in ASAP, don’t wait for the deadline, as we’re currently interviewing teams for consideration into the next class!

 

The Story of Fire, Stone and Biology

The Story of Fire, Stone and Biology

It was the Titan, Prometheus, who created man.

Prometheus glanced down on the Earth and noticed that rainwater was making nature live, without it trees and bushes died, giving way to desert.

Prometheus discovered the power of earth and water, so he mixed clay with water, moulding the shape of the first man.

It was in the shape of the gods that he created mankind.

For some, the well trodden mythology of the theft of fire from the gods by Prometheus, to share with humanity is seen as both a great sacrifice and a parable, that not even a titan is allowed to share the tools of the gods.

But fire and stone isn’t the only lesson which the Titan Prometheus can teach us, even in his punishment, chained to a rock, suffering in agony as his liver is eaten by an eagle, eternally, he gave us one more gift.

Regeneration.

It appears that even the ancient Greek’s knew of the liver’s ability to regenerate after injury, it’s an ancient learning hinted through mythology and yet, only recently have we really started to unravel the mechanisms of regeneration, not just in the liver but across the bodies of humans and other multicellular organisms.

“In Biology, Regeneration is the process of renewal, restoration, and growth that makes genomes, cells, organisms, and ecosystems resilient to natural fluctuations or events that cause disturbance or damage”

So what do we, as humanity now know about regeneration?

  • We know that our DNA has built in repair mechanisms
  • We know that our cells have “shredders” which are constantly on the search for damaged proteins, destroying the old to ensure our cells continue to function.
  • We know that our tissues are constantly replenished by adult stem cells, as we get broken down by wear and tear, our bodies do an incredible job of repairing us, until they can’t.
  • We know that some organisms still retain their regenerative capabilities, long past the embryonic stage.
  • Flatworms can be cut in half and regenerate entirely, salamanders retain the ability to regenerate organs, eyes, tails and many more of their body parts and humans retain a limited amount of regeneration (although not the ability to regenerate damaged organs or limbs… yet).

So can we 3D print human organs yet?

No, not yet but we’re starting to understand some of the most complex technologies on this planet, DNA, proteins, cells and our living tissues, which turn chaos into order.

We have been able to strip hearts of cardiac cells, repopulate their scaffolding and restart them, they beat.

We’ve been able to keep lungs alive outside of the human body for a few hours (previously they’d foul within minutes), match and transplant hearts, lungs, kidneys and more successfully into living donors and this is just the beginning.

The Technology of Life

We’re beginning to understand the language of the gods, DNA is the code in which life is written and as we remember, in memorial, those who have lost their lives or have been severely wounded in battle for our freedoms, we can now offer them a glimmer of hope.

This year, the Department of Defense launched a new Organ preservation initiative supported by the Organ Preservation Alliance and New Organ. Companies like Organovo are now printing more and more complex tissues, we can, as of today, grow organoids (small organ like tissues) of most major human organs and researchers at universities across the globe are diving deeply into regenerative medicine and the development of a new area of science, organogenesis.

Prometheus, on that rock of eternal damnation, gave us one last gift, regeneration.

IndieBio secures partnership with Transcriptic to Accelerate Biology

IndieBio secures partnership with Transcriptic to Accelerate Biology

Media Contact: Dorothy Lou Bailey, dorothylou@transcriptic.com

San Francisco, CA – IndieBio, the leading global biotech accelerator, today announced an exclusive partnership with the robotic cloud laboratory platform Transcriptic for up to $60,000 per year in free services for the companies they fund and accelerate.

The Transcriptic credits will be divided evenly among the companies in each new class at IndieBio. IndieBio currently has 12 companies in their inaugural San Francisco based class and plans on admitting approximately 30 per year (15 per cycle). This partnership is the first in a series of announcements by IndieBio as they prepare to open applications for their next application cycle.

“We are incredibly excited to be announcing this partnership with Transcriptic and working to accelerate biology together. From the beginning, our aim in founding IndieBio has been to give scientists and entrepreneurs a new, lower cost path to innovation in Independent Biology.

We evolve, like the companies we fund, so expect to hear some very big, additional news from us this week on this continued acceleration.”

Ryan Bethencourt, Program Director, IndieBio

“We believe cloud science will enable a better future and we’re excited to partner Transcriptic to help enable that future.”

Arvind Gupta, Partner SOSventures and Founder IndieBio

Transcriptic, a venture-backed on-demand science company that enables researchers to run their experiments remotely through a web based interface, has democratized access to biotech automation. Transcriptic can execute a wide range of common molecular biology workflows with high repeatability and low cost. From their 10,000 sq. ft. Menlo Park facility, Transcriptic services clients spanning the globe with always-on infrastructure. “The platform enables scientists to remove the intense manual labor that encompasses 70% of research and development time. While useful for all, this is especially valuable for small companies who need reliable data and longer capital runways.”

IndieBio views biology as technology and invites applicants from across the life sciences from food, biomaterials to new therapeutics, melding biology, software and robotics to apply for the spring and winter batches. IndieBio funds and accelerates company’s developing solutions with biology to some of the world’s most intractable problems with the broad vision of moving our world from one of scarcity to one of abundance.

“Transcriptic is pivotal to accelerating our R&D program. They allow us to conduct meaningful and reproducible experiments without having to incur the expensive capital cost of buying additional scientific equipment or hiring additional staff to conduct these crucial experiments.”

Leo Wan, CSO & Co-Founder, Ranomics (IB1)

Extem – The future of stem cell based therapy.

Extem - The future of stem cell based therapy.

We are a group of scientists and engineers designing a new system to mass-produce adult stem cells. Our pilot project is the rapid large-scale production of mesenchymal stem cells, for use in basic research and bioprinting.

With federal science budget cuts of almost $600M in Canada alone between 2008 and 2013, it is becoming increasingly difficult for researchers to fund their experiments. We are removing the difficulty and expense of isolating primary cells by delivering ready-to-use stem cells straight to your lab.

Our ultimate goal is to empower researchers and other enabling technologies to revolutionize bio-engineering through the integration of stem cell tools. In pioneering a global source of stem cells, we aim to exponentially accelerate stem cell research and open the gate to new stem cell-based therapies in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering.

-the extem team

Stem cells, research, and bio-engineering – the future of stem cell based therapy.

IndieBio SF, Announces First Class of 11 Biotech Startups

IndieBio's First class

There is a major funding gap for very early stage bio-entrepreneurs. Backed by SOSventures, a $200million dollar VC fund, IndieBio is the world’s first accelerator dedicated to early stage biology startups.

We’re offering a total package of $100k, including $50k in cash, IndieBio, a dedicated biolab in San Francisco, brings together the world’s leading scientists and entrepreneurs to revolutionize the way biotech is done.  Startups receive free access for one year and a tailored program that helps scientists become experienced bio-entrepreneurs.  The 100-day program culminates in a demo day where the teams present to VCs and press the science and business of the company.

IndieBio is excited to announce its first batch in San Francisco kicking off on February 28.

Indie Bio SF: Session I  – Spring 2015 (SI)

  • Pembient

Eliminating the $750 million illegal rhino horn poaching trade by growing rhino horns made from rhino DNA and 3D printed keratin.

  • Extem.co

Enabling a thousand fold increase multipotent stem cell production over the industry standard, enabling a stable supply chain for regenerative medicine and basic research.

  • Orphidia

Creating a ten dollar real time blood diagnostics “lab on a chip” that can test for up to 50 diseases with one drop of blood, enabling field based, portable diagnostics anywhere in the world.

  • Affinity

Enabling a 10-fold increase in yield for human bio-therapeutic antibodies used in the current $45B bio-therapeutics market.

  • Clara Foods

Producing ex-vivo egg whites that eliminate the current inefficient and inhumane paradigm of the egg battery farm industry, supplying the growing egg white market with a humane and less expensive alternative.

  • aBioBot

Integrating machine learning and computer vision for lab robots that will enable next generation scalable automation tools to triple the output of the $23B R&D industry.

  • Blue Turtle

A bioengineered probiotics therapeutics platform that enables the creation of “enzyme factories” in patients’ gut microbiome to treat diseases from protein deficiencies and result in treatments that are 100x less expensive than current therapies.

  • Bioloop

Bioengineereed textiles that eliminate the need for harvesting cotton, enabling fully customizable fabrics for the multi-billion dollar fashion and industrial textiles industries.

  • Arcturus Biocloud

Bringing a cloud-based science platform to education, makers, and non-scientists.

  • Sensa.io

Open source bioreactors for every home, lab, and school.

  • Ranomics

Developing a first-in-class rare genomic variation database to give clear functional implications for human genome sequencing results.

About SOSventures: We are a collaborative team of engineers, designers, mentors, problem solvers, inventors, technology pioneers, entrepreneurs, and founders of global organizations. We are dedicated to our entrepreneurs and their vision of bettering the world.

For more information, please visit www.sosventures.com

About IndieBio: IndieBio is short for Independent Biology, a new way for scientists, entrepreneurs, and tinkerers to shape their own destiny and make something that matters. At IndieBio, we provide seed funding and intensive mentorship to drive this transition in only three months and launch our graduate companies into the world of biotechnology to make their fortune.

For more information, please visit www.indie.bio

 

What next?

We received an incredible number of great applications from across the world (more information to come in the next couple of weeks) but we have also just started sending out our rejection emails as well for the first application cycle and for some of you reading this, we’ll have attached a link to this post to discuss some of the reasons why your team submission might not have been successful in this application cycle.

What if you didn’t get into the first Indie.Bio class?

Rejection is part of the process of building any company, from the day your idea is born, you have to nurture it through the objections of friends, family, co-founders, potential customers and investors. For many of you this isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning of your journey and for some of you not successful in this cycle, we encourage you to apply with new ideas and projects as well as refined projects that you’d previously applied with, we’ll be opening up applications for fall 2015 in SF and Cork applications are open now for the Summer.

So what are we typically looking for in our applications?

1. Team: Strong, dedicated team with at least two full time co-founders (or at least willing to go full time upon funding).
2. Strong science: based on your own experiments, alpha/beta products or current literature, is your science likely to work?
3. Coming to San Francisco: Is your team willing to relocate to the San Francisco Bay area for the 100 day program (at least)?
4. 100 Days: Will you be able to develop a product or service within the 100 days of the program? How will you show investors during and after demo day that you’re ready for the next round of investment to scale your company?
5. Vision & Market potential: What’s the grand vision for your company? How will your technology meaningfully help humanity? Is this more than a small service or product and does your company have the potential to build a $100m-$1BLN+ biotech business in 5-10 years if you’re successful?

Some of the applications we received were VERY interesting scientifically but needed just a little more work to show that the science might actually work, in those cases we’d highly recommend joining your local biohacker space or local lab and continuing your work and applying for the next cycle.

Just remember as Carl Sagan once wrote “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

 

Ethan’s Journey: From Postdocalypse to Venture Funded Biotech Entrepreneur

Ethan's Journey: From Postdocalypse to Venture Funded Biotech Entrepreneur

Hi, my name is Ethan. I’m the Founder and CEO of Perlstein Lab. Perlstein Lab is a biotech startup and public benefit corporation based in San Francisco. Our mission is precision (personalized) orphan disease drug discovery. In this inaugural post, I will briefly recount the genesis of Perlstein Lab, the science behind our evolutionary approach, and why Perlstein Lab takes online outreach seriously.

18 months ago I faced the most important decision of my professional life: continue to try to break into academia, or leave for greener pastures. Like so many other members of Generation Postdocalypse, I could not ignore the prospects of endless competition for publications, grants and jobs . Was there a way to blend curiosity-driven research with tangible therapeutic outcomes? Of all things, Twitter became my global learning and support group, and I started to investigate options beyond the ivory tower. Very quickly I discovered communities of patient advocates, including inspiring parents of kids with orphan diseases, who convinced me that solving orphan disease puzzles would be the ideal path forward.

When I began putting together a formal business plan and slide deck last Fall, I was most confident about the science underlying our evolutionary drug screening platform, which is based on genome-edited primordial disease models: yeast, worms, flies and fish. When I was a grad student in Professor Stuart Schreiber’s lab at Harvard between 2002 and 2006 I validated yeast as a model for pharmacology. I then advanced these ideas as an independent fellow at Princeton from 2007 to 2012 by studying the pharmacology of antidepressants in yeast cells.

I knew I was onto something when I attended Rare Disease Day 2013 at NIH and learned that very few (if any) orphan disease researchers leverage primordial disease models, even though ancestral forms (aka homologs) of many orphan disease genes are evolutionarily conserved in simpler organisms. Instead, the vast majority of orphan disease research relies on mouse models of disease, and has relied on mouse models for the last 30+ years.

Most biotech startups don’t have a blog or Twitter presence. Perlstein Lab will be different from the typical biotech startup with respect to online outreach, especially patient engagement. What initially drew me into the orphan disease space was the openness, zeal and grace of patient advocates on Twitter and the blogosphere, so it’s only fair that Perlstein Lab returns the favor. As a for-profit company, we obviously have to be mindful of proprietary concerns. Wherever possible we will strive to engage patients, advocates, scientists or the public on our science, and share the week-to-week victories and tribulations of a 5-person biotech startup.

Ethan Perlstein is a Molecular Biologist, founder of Perlstein lab, a venture funded Orphan disease biotech startup and Mentor at Indie Bio. Feel free to reach out to Ethan 

Ideating in Biotech: Request for Startups

Ideating in Biotech: Request for Startups

With the recent announcement of the launch of Indie Bio (our new idea stage biotech accelerator launching in downtown San Francisco this Jan and in Cork in the summer) and the addition of the Berkeley Biolabs team, we thought it was time to send out a request for startups, not just any startups, idea stage biotech startups, for those who want to build biotechnology from the ground up, with access to funding, a biosafety level 2 (BSL2) molecular biology lab and world class list of scientific and business mentors.

We’ve pulled together a wishlist of SynBio and classical biotech idea areas we’d love to have application in but we aren’t limiting, as novel applications of biology are limited only by your imagination.

Our first class of 10 funded startups, starts at the end of Jan 2015 and we’d really love for any and all innovators to apply!

So who should applyAnyone, if you have an idea that you’ve been dying to develop in biotech, synthetic biology or any new or unusual form of programming life, send in a short application (it should only take you 30 mins) and please feel free to send in multiple applications for multiple ideas.

Whether you’re an undergrad, PhD student, PostDoc, Professor, Industry Professional or just a citizen scientist who’s passionate about biology, we’d love to hear from you and we’d welcome an application or multiple for your idea stage biotech startup.

So with that, let’s start with the idea gasoline (hopefully biodiesel of course!) Here are a few ideas we’d like to invite to send in an application but there are ALOT more!

Request for Startups:

Food tech – replacing any animal or plant enzymes, protein, expensive flavorings or processes that can be made for a fraction of the cost in other cellular systems (or other plants). Think Vegan Cheese, In vitro meats and Eggs! GMO’s welcomed!

Industrial – utilizing biological processes to solve industrial challenges and production, everything from industrial enzymes through to accelerating production of raw materials and proteins (Novozymes is a good example)

Bioremediation – utilizing plants, fungi and bacteria to clean up environmental contamination, including water filtration, land decontamination, Carbon capture and radioactive cleanup

Biomining – use of plants, fungi or bacteria that can be used to extract metals from the environment in a non destructive and efficient manner

Biomedical applications – diagnostics, therapeutic development platforms and therapeutics (ideally in orphan diseases)

Cybernetics – true melding of human biology and machines, think grinders and not quantified self.

Biomaterials – novel biomaterials made with phage, viruses, bacteria, fungi, animal cells or plants. From wearable biomaterials to construction biomaterials

Bioenergy – storage and generation of biological power based systems

Biological computation – novel computational systems built with biology, i.e. biomolecular logic is just the start

Biosensors – detecting substances in the environment with bacterial sensors

Space biotech – Novel applications of biology to make life possible/easier for space travel and long term survival off world

Consumer Biotech – any product or service, made with novel biology that can be sold direct to consumer, glowing plants, Civet Coffee and color changing flowers are only the start!

Tissue Engineering – From human tissue replacement, 3D Bioprinting to building human organs and beyond

Reproductive Biotech – think about artificial wombs and beyond!

Neurocognitive Tech (NeuroTech) – Any technology that helps us visualize and understand the brain and its neuronal outputs and action that understanding.

Quantum Biology – the migratory Robin sees the the earth’s magnetic field through quantum biology, some enzymes work on quantum principles and chloroplasts improve sun harness efficiency through quantum effects. We’d love to fund product ideas in this space.

and remember, don’t forget to APPLY with your idea stage biotech, we ARE funding innovation!

A PhD is perfect for a startup

A PhD is perfect for a startup

By Lenny Teytelman

In my 2.5 years as a co-founder of ZappyLab, the most surprising aspect of entrepreneurship for me has been the realization that graduate academic training is just perfect for founding a startup. I can’t think of any other training program that could have better prepared me for the challenges of creating a company. The skills I acquired in the 6 years of PhD work are precisely the ones essential for a startup.

I will discuss in detail below the specific similarities of academia and startups; however, I first want to repost my answer to a postdoctoral researcher who asked if an MBA or some business classes could help to transition from academia to industry.

As a sixth-year postdoc, you have over a decade of training. You are more trained than effectively the entire world labor force.
The last thing you need now is additional classes.You are an extremely valuable employee because you are a scientist. It’s not the pipetting skills or the protein you have been studying – it’s the fact that you are a scientist that makes you so valuable.  You know how to research, form hypotheses, test them, analyze and evaluate results, make quantitative conclusions, and communicate the results to others.
The problem we have is that we have not been exposed to non-academic careers. While good mentors are supportive of all career plans (see here), good mentors are rare.  We are trained to be professors, even though only a small fraction of the PhDs in life sciences will actually become faculty. Non-academic careers are called “alternative”, even though the numbers make it clear that it’s the professor job that is “alternative”.
Scientists simply don’t know that they are valuable outside of academia. How many know that intellectual property (patent) law firms will hire PhDs and will pay for them to go to law school? How many know that life science venture capital firms hire PhDs to evaluate proposals? How many scientists know that graduate training is PERFECT for founding a startup? Think about lab meetings and the qualifying exam – it’s all about presenting, communicating, and defending your ideas. That’s exactly the set of skills key in pitching to investors. And running a startup is all about experimenting, evaluating, and forming new hypotheses. There are so many levels on which academia and the startup world are similar, I could give a 2-hour talk on this! For the sake of brevity, I’ll just say that I know many startup founders, and not a single one of them has an MBA. Conversely, I know many MBAs, and not one of them has co-founded a startup.

And now for the concrete similarities.

Lab Meetings and Pitching to Investors

This may be the most valuable commonality. The qualifying exam, thesis committee meetings, and lab meetings sharpen the communication skills spectacularly. You learn to make effective presentation slides and to present to a small and hyper-critical audience. You need to master the non-aggressive control. Answer all questions and the lab meeting just got away from you; you did not present the key data and did not get advice on the parts you really care about. But you can’t be dismissive or aggressive. Same thing with the qual – answer everything without any control of the flow, and you never get past Aim 1. Most of all, these meetings are all about fielding questions. Just as with control of the tempo, this is an art. You need to convey confidence and defend your ideas and positions. Yet, you also need to be open to advice. If you are too dismissive, your colleagues will stop asking anything at your meetings, and that defeats the purpose of the entire exercise.

The above perfectly describes a meeting with an investor. These are strong and sharp personalities, just as the researchers you are used to. They want confident answers and a founder who has obviously thought through all contingencies. At the same time, they don’t want to be cut off and don’t like feeling stupid if you belittle their questions. They also want to make sure that if they invest, you are a type of founder who is open to advice and suggestions. Investors don’t like to think of themselves as just wallets; many will be getting a board seat, and if you don’t listen to anyone, they won’t want to be on your board and that means won’t want to invest in your company.

Handling Rejection – the Manuscript Reviewers and Venture Capitalists

Good results, getting your PhD, publication, fellowships, funding, faculty position, and tenure all have something in common – unpredictability. The only thing that is guaranteed in academia is Rejection. Getting your first manuscript rejection letter is a stunning and long-lasting level of pain. Pain killers don’t help, and the only remedy I know of is to lose yourself in readingfamous rejection letters to Nobel Prize winners and authors like Nabokov.

I never thought that I would one day view my rejections from every single postdoctoral fellowship in a positive light (interestingly, my postdoc proposals were really good scientifically but not funded; meanwhile, my graduate NSF proposal was terrible but I got it). The academic rejections seriously thickened my skin. Without this, I could not have handled the constant stream of “NOs” that every startup experiences (if you think getting a “yes” to a paper from an academic journal is hard, try getting a “yes” to a huge sum of money in an investment or a business deal).

And I certainly never thought that I would view my two manuscript rejections in a positive light. Well, I do. It gave me the opportunity to learn how to write a rebuttal. The rebuttals worked both times. The key with rebuttals, just as with presenting and fielding questions, is to strike the right tone. The rebuttal has to be strong, but it can’t be angry. You have to use the reviews and investor rejections to improve your manuscript/slide presentation/offer. Need to identify the weak parts of your communication, strengthen them, and eloquently and diplomatically explain why the reviewer/investor is wrong and why your paper deserves to be in the journal and why investing in your startup is in fact an opportunity the investor cannot miss.

Risk

As you embark on the PhD/startup, you are assuming a crazy level of risk. Years and years of effort, with hope but no guarantee of success. Miniscule financial compensation. Stress, self-doubt, and burnout. The one thing that drives you is the passion and belief in your project (passion and belief that is far from constant and often hits such lows that even you don’t understand why you are not dropping it).

Perseverance
Einstein, Ben Franklin, and Mark Twain have all been credited with the quote, “The definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.” Regardless of the source, this remark brilliantly catches what my experimental research was like for a decade.

Whether you are in science or humanities, getting a PhD is extraordinarily hard. It requires years of a super-human level of commitment and perseverance. So does a startup.

Self-doubt

Whether male or female, it seems that almost all scientists suffer from the impostor syndrome. The self-doubt is persistent throughout the graduate, postdoctoral, and faculty appointments. But with each stage, you get better at taming this doubt and have a track record of overcoming challenges and gargantuan tasks like thesis-writing.

If you don’t learn to control the impostor syndrome, you can’t succeed in academia, and you certainly can’t succeed with a startup.

Research Proposals, business plans, and experiments

I often see people comparing writing a research proposal to a business plan. It is true that in both you make up rosy projections and the people reviewing summarily dismiss them. Beyond that, I disagree that this is a valid comparison.

I personally think business plans are a waste of time. Not a single savvy investor has asked to see our business plan. Y-combinator explicitly says it never reads them. Many startups, including ours, do end up writing one, but usually that’s because one of your angel investors or their spouse went to business school and asks for it, for no good reason.

A research proposal is very different from a business plan in that you outline a series of experiments. You have to formulate the experiments in a way that leads from one question to the next, keeping in mind that for each experiment, the outcome may be A or B. You can’t plan on “A” because “B” is just as likely. What if the hypothesis in the first section is wrong? How do you move on to the next section? This is the tricky and valuable part of writing a research grant proposal. And this is the part that is relevant for a startup – the setup of the experiments and the evaluation of your hypothesis.

One of the main things you learn as a scientist is how to properly test a hypothesis. This is key for startups. A startup itself is a research project. You are experimenting, adjusting based on user feedback and data, devising new experiments, and switching to a new project/pivoting if the first one does not work. Research is just as unpredictable as startups. And it is also important to know when to ignore your research plan. Some of the most interesting and important discoveries happen accidentally, just as many startups are founded to do one thing but end up switching and succeeding with an entirely different product.

Your PI, thesis committee, and the startup advisory board

When I give talks and advice on founding a startup, I think my most valuable suggestion is to get good advisors. Don’t worry, there is plenty of trial and error and you definitely will learn from your mistakes. But if you don’t get advice and try to make all the mistakes you are fated to make, instead of learning, you’ll just fail. Similarly, the role of the PI and the thesis committee and your labmates is to limit the number of mistakes you make, so that you graduate in 6 instead of 66 years. That is also why I have always stressed to students picking a graduate or postdoc lab not to underestimate the importance of a good advisor (see my recent “Your mentor can make or brake your academic career“).

 

The second-most valuable suggestion I offer is to learn when to ignore the advice. Part of maturing as a PhD student involves becoming the expert on your thesis project. And at some point, instead of asking for guidance from your advisor, your job becomes guiding your advisor to understand and support your experiments and plans. As important as good mentors are to your success, it is equally important to learn that advisors like to advise and a huge portion of the advice they give you is wrong. At some point in your startup, you suddenly start drowning in conflicting advice from your investors, directors, advisors, friends, and users. If you listen to everything, you’ll just fail. Again, filtering this is an art that you pick up with time, and academia provides you with plenty of time and opportunity to become a master at this.

Lenny Teytelman is a Biologist, co-founder at Zappylab and Mentor at Indie Bio. Feel free to reach out to Lenny @lteytelman