IndieBio NY Class 3 Demo Day: Ready to make an impact

IndieBio NY Demo Day was a huge success! The 10 graduating startups gave 3-minute presentations on the huge problem they are tackling in human or planetary health, their technical product that solves the problem, and the opportunity for immense impact for good when these startups succeed.

Thank you for all the enormous support to our founders and for believing in the vision that biology is the future.

Congrats to the fantastic startups who participated in IndieBio NY Class 3:

  • Bosque Foods: Whole muscle meat alternatives grown naturally from fungi
  • Ceragen: Probiotics for plants to increase crop yields
  • Helex: Enabling safer gene editing
  • Inso Biosciences: Next-generation sample prep. In solution
  • Kutanios: Defending skin against environmental and aging-related damage
  • Kyomei: Transforming meat protein production with plants
  • Pannex Therapeutics: Developing life-transforming therapies based on blocking Pannexin 1 channels
  • RizLab Health: Bringing blood analysis to patients’ fingertips
  • Tômtex: Designing the future of sustainable biomaterial
  • Upright: Plant-based goods to nourish the world

Did you miss it? Do you want to watch again? Review the short presentations from each IndieBio NY Class 3 at the event archive here or enjoy the event recording below.

Bosque Foods: Whole-Cut Meat Substitutes From Fungi

Consumers looking for meat alternatives love their nuggs and burgers, but no company has recreated the experience of a chicken cutlet or scallop in taste and texture. Bosque Foods leverages the power of fungi to create whole-cut meats to satisfy any vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian using clean ingredients and minimal processing. We spoke with CEO Isabella Iglesias-Musachio about her whole-cut alternative and the future of food.

Watch Bosque Foods present at IndieBio NY Class 3 Demo Day

“I think that we’re gonna have a lot of different types of foods that are coming to market in the next 5 to 10 years that are really going to change food and our culinary traditions.”

How did you learn about the problems around our current food systems?

I was born in New York, and I ended up going to school for sustainable agriculture and sustainable development. It was while studying about agriculture that I learned about animal farming, and all of the disastrous side effects of our mass agricultural system and how that links to issues of climate change. It’s where I learned about largely the carbon footprint of the animal agriculture industry, as well as the inhumane practices in terms of raising livestock. 

That’s what made me decide to become a vegetarian at 16. That’s also where I got really interested in food and food technology. And, yeah, that’s what sparked my interest in sustainability, in different types of food products, and why I would later one day start Bosque Foods. Kinoko Labs.

What led you to found Bosque Foods?

I got my degree, and then I ended up working actually in different NGOs and nonprofits, with sustainable agriculture as well. But eventually, I started working in the tech industry. 

I got recruited by a French corporation, so moved to Europe, and helped to open multiple Tech Shop startups throughout France. After that, I went on to work for another startup in Berlin, in Germany called InFarm. So over the course of my career, I worked in pretty much only startups after, you know, working in just nonprofits and NGOs. I found from that experience that I really love the pace of startups. I also felt like you could tackle really ambitious problems and really big humanitarian issues with the startup and actually succeed. 

So I’m very used to working in startups. I’m very familiar with building them and you know, also have a lot of experience in working in different stages of the startup, so for me, it was kind of like a natural step to start my own startup.

What is missing from plant-based products available on grocery shelves today?

In comparison to plant based meat alternatives, what’s on the market today is mostly burgers and sausages and nuggets and all these de-texturized protein products. And at the end of the day, what consumers want are processed products that are minimally processed, healthier, nutrient dense, and that they have more variety and texture. 

It’s very hard to create a whole textured product with just a pea protein isolate, it has to be extruded, which means it has to become ultra-processed with a label that’s, you know, 20, 40 ingredients long. Consumers look at that, and they don’t want to eat that every day or they feel they don’t want to feel guilty about eating that every single day. 

So what we’re able to create are products that are minimally processed, nutrient dense, thereby healthier, while also having a meat like texture, naturally. Mycelium has an inherent fiber structure and network that allows us to leverage that, you know, perfectly for the use and creating whole cuts.

How do mycelium create whole-cut meat substitutes?

Mycelium is the vegetative root network of a fungi. An everyday example of where you would find mycelium is actually underground–if you were to go in the forest and you see a mushroom for example, popping up, then you what you can actually understand is that mycelium is all the root network underneath, that connects to different mushrooms and also to different plants 

But there’s also ways that you can cultivate mycelium not using soil, you can cultivate it the way that we do, which is essentially like tricking the mycelium into thinking that it’s in the ground, or that it’s in a tree trunk, for example. 

And so we mimic the environment of soil or we mimic the environment of a tree trunk so that the mycelium grows within our very pure and clean environment. And in that way, we’re able to cultivate pure mycelium. We then harvest that and we use that as the main ingredient in our meat alternatives.

What is your dream for Bosque Foods’ products?

By creating products that consumers can make a one-to-one switch for and that they that they love and that they adopt, we’ll be able to lessen their reliance on animal based products. So the idea is essentially that the more we can convince people to eat non-animal-based products instead of their typical animal meat. 

For me, I hope that people will just really love the product and love the way it tastes and be able to use it in the way that they would typically use regular animal meat. I think the ideal is that a consumer can basically have a one-to-one switch for their animal product with our product. So anytime that a normal person, a consumer, would want to have a barbecue or, you know, make themselves whatever their favorite meat dish is, they could instead use the product that we create.

How will our food landscape change in the next few years?

We’re really at this inflection point, I think in history. There’s the Industrial Revolution, and we’re now in this other type of revolution, where we can create food in extremely different ways, that are not only very different, but also healthier and more sustainable. 

We’re at, I think, one of the most interesting points in history from a technology perspective, because it’s really right now that the future of food is being created. 

Ideally, we’re creating a product that people can use today, that they’re going to be able to, you know, not change their entire culinary tradition, but just incorporate what we’re building. But at the same time, I think that we’re gonna have a lot of different types of foods that are coming to market in the next 5 to 10 years that are really going to change food and our culinary traditions.

Kyomei: Empowering Plant-Based Proteins with Flavor

Alternatives to animal protein include plant-based, fermentation-based, and cellular agriculture-based options – but all suffer from a lack of true ‘meatiness.’ Kyomei is using a novel strategy to scale production of meat myoglobin produced in plants. Their innovative ingredient will be the foundation of truly satisfying plant-based protein, providing the umami flavor that consumers crave. We spoke to Kyomei CEO, Meir Wachs, about Kyomei and the future of plant-based protein.

Watch Kyomei present at IndieBio NY Class 3 Demo Day

What was behind your motivation to found a biotech startup?

My journey into the life sciences really began as a means to look for a way to make an impact and a bigger impact rather than just selling proverbial widgets. It was a massive opportunity to make an impact on the world in a very specific, unique way. I thought that biology, synthetic biology and really, all of life science, had just incredible potential to alter the future of humanity.

This is really about impact. And in what arena can you have the most impact, given your skill set, given what you want to do? For me, it was a very deliberate attempt to find a good market, a good fit and a good means in which I can have that impact. Food production was so clear, so obvious, and we had the team and the means to do it. It was sort of a no brainer.

What fundamental idea are you challenging?

I think there’s a prevalent idea that to eat meat and to enjoy the taste of meat, you have to eat meat that is taken from a cow. We don’t think that’s the case.

I think historically, obviously, you get meat—beef or chicken—via an animal production system. Until relatively recently in human history, we didn’t have the technological tools in which we could produce these proteins in alternate ways. Suddenly we’re seeing that we can actually produce things, we can actually create meat using different production systems. In our case: using plant production systems, and we think it’s a far better way to get proteins.

How does Kyomei produce animal proteins?

Kyomei is producing meat proteins inside of plants. 

We use plants as a system to produce meat proteins; the same proteins, the same amino acids that comprise meat proteins, we produce them inside of plants. Our first product and protein is myoglobin, or bovine MB. Myoglobin is a heme iron binding protein that gives meat its meaty flavor but we can produce it entirely inside of plants. 

To the degree that we can make plant-based meat, or meat alternatives, taste more like meat—or even produce identical meat proteins to make meat alternatives taste more ‘meaty,’—people will realize you don’t need the cow to eat ‘meat.’ You can have the same protein, the same taste, the same flavor, but without the cow.

How does the founding team complement one another?

I think you could start businesses and build teams of people who are just like you. And that could be fun, but also could not be so effective. I think with this team, what’s really interesting is that we’re very different and very complementary. And it really stands out as unique in that sense. 

I do not have a science background, I’ve not been trained in biology. My co founder did a PhD in biochemistry, and she spent many years in plant science labs, right. So right there, you understand this is a very different team in terms of complementariness. I’m bringing in the business experience, how to run and how to strategize, together with somebody in the hard sciences to make the product. So it’s a very complementary thing.

What is the mission of Kyomei?

We want to make better tasting plant-based products. We want to empower those products. So we are creating—we are producing, growing the ingredients from inside of the plants to power the next generation of meat alternatives. 

In so doing, we hope to increase their consumption, to increase the availability and increase tastes, and make them taste better, make more people try them. It’s that simple. To the degree that we can accomplish that, and really contribute to that ecosystem of people trying to do that, empowering not just one product, but many products across the ecosystem, and become a platform empowering these products and making them taste better, to that degree, we can impact our world.

Kutanios: A Novel Skin-protective Ingredient for All Types of Skin Care

Kutanios produces a peptide-based ingredient that prevents sun damage and aging via topical application. The novel mechanism stops skin cells from degrading the surrounding collagen and promoting inflammation, common causes of sun-damage related aging. Not only does this peptide protect against sun and skin damage, but their ingredient is biodegradable and safe for the environment.

Watch Kutanios present at IndieBio NY Class 3 Demo Day

We spoke to CEO Irina Miller, Ph.D., and CSO Norman Miller, Ph.D., about the discoveries that underlie Kutanios and their vision for skincare’s future.

How did your passion for science evolve into a biotech startup?

Irina: My passion is for science. My passion is for science for medical science, for biophysics, and biochemistry, for science. I studied medicine first, and became a physician. Then my PhD courses were in the field of cardiovascular biochemistry, studying the effect of damage to vascular walls and protection from this damage. 

Since then, I realized that the mechanism underlying their vascular or damaged was collagen exposure, and it’s very similar with what’s happening on the skin surface. Skin is the largest organ in the body, but the capacity of protecting itself is very limited.

We are developing science-based innovative ingredients to detoxify the skin from the harmful effects of solar radiation, tobacco smoke, pollution and other harmful chemicals.

What is the scientific basis of Kutanios’ technology?

Irina: We decided to start Kutanios, which has a totally new approach to skincare, to detoxify the skin of harmful chemicals, all causes of skin aging, dermatological conditions, including acne, and even more severe damaged skin cancers. 

The idea is science based, and it’s based on 3 big discoveries of Professor Norman Miller, who discovered the role of HDL (good cholesterol) in prevention of cardiovascular disease. 

His second big discovery is that a small part of HDL proteins can bind and detoxify toxic lipid peroxides which are damaging to the cells and its surroundings. 

His third discovery was that the concentration of these toxic lipid peroxides in skin is much greater, more than 10 times greater compared with concentration in blood.

How do lipid peroxides affect skin health?

Norman: So the lipid peroxides that are formed in skin, by sunlight and atmospheric pollutants and tobacco smoke, have several effects on skin cells and on the proteins between the skin cells that are important in our appearance. 

For example, there’s a protein in skin called collagen that is important for giving the skin strength. There’s another protein called elastin, which gives elasticity. The cells have many different functions in skin. And also the DNA is important. All of these things that I’ve mentioned can be damaged by lipid peroxides. And there’s good evidence that they all contribute to the aging process.

How do the Kutanios peptides stop lipid peroxides from damaging skin?

Norman: Our peptides enter skin, they bind these lipid peroxides, and act like magnets or sponges to sort of mop up the lipid peroxides. That prevents them from having the harmful effects on the proteins and on the cells and on the DNA. 

At the same time, the the peptides stick to the surfaces of the cells. And so when the cells are lost from the skin by the normal processes, they take the peptide and the lipid peroxides with them, so very little lipid peroxide will enter the blood, most of it will be lost. 

It’s a kind of a cleansing process, a detoxification process, that will protect the skin from the harmful effects of these lipid peroxides.

Why is it important to create novel skin health solutions?

Norman: The role of lipid peroxides in skin conditions has been completely neglected. It’s been known from scientific research for many years that lipid peroxides develop in the skin; it’s been known also that lipid peroxides have bad effects on cells. But nobody has brought these two together. 

At the moment, in the skincare industry, there is no ingredient that specifically targets these chemicals, even though we know they’re being produced all the time, that they’re increased by sunlight–and by all sunlight, not just by ultraviolet light by all sunlight–they’re increased by tobacco smoke, and they’re increased by all common atmospheric pollutants. 

We know that they’re being produced, but there is no ingredient, surprisingly, in skincare in the skincare industry at this point, which targets them. And our product will be the first one.

How do you imagine skincare and skin health products will evolve?

Irina: My envisage of the future is that application of creams will be topical and very targeted to the particular needs of every individual. And that’s what we’re aiming for. 

At the moment, our ingredients, our new component, is also very targeted, and it’s targeted to specific harmful particles, which are produced in more than polluted environments. In the future we will be targeting particles and particular problems within the body, within cells.

Tômtex: Designing the Material Revolution

Bio-based materials are the future, and Tômtex is designing the petrochemical-free revolution. The New York-based startup has garnered awards from design schools and fashion competitions for its material, which uses seashell waste as its foundation. By using entirely green chemistries, Tômtex creates entirely biodegradable exotic leather substitutes with incredible strength and beauty.

Watch Tômtex present at IndieBio NY Class 3 Demo Day

We spoke with Tômtex CEO Uyen Tran about her technology and her vision for the future of materials.

How did your background expose you to the waste of fast fashion?

I grew up in Danang, Vietnam, and experienced textile pollution and leather manufacturing just a few blocks from my home. 

Growing up, I didn’t have any new clothes to wear, and I wore secondhand clothes, which were discarded from the Western countries. And I developed the passion for fashion because I learned of the brand, and I learned of the designer from those secondhand clothes, clothes like Ralph Lauren, Nike, Adidas.

So fast forward, I moved to New York, and worked as a fashion designer and textile designer here for a few years. And, instantly, I can connect right away where the problem comes from.

What did you learn as a designer about fashion waste?

Fossil fuel materials and fabrics are very cheap, and a lot of brands work within a budget. We get the materials and we don’t have a lot of alternatives. We don’t have a lot of sustainable material alternatives to those synthetic fabrics. So at that point, I don’t have a lot of choices. That’s why it’s very hard for me to source sustainable materials in general.

When I worked with brands and designers, I developed a passion for materials. I think material is the fundamental starting point of the product, yet not a lot of people fall into textile design.

What is the mission of Tomtex?

At Tômtex, our mission is to create the next gen bio materials that can be accessible, practical and sustainable alternative to commercialized fossil fuel-derived materials.

What can you tell me about the chitosan used in Tômtex materials?

Chitosan is the second most abundant biopolymer on Earth, just behind cellulose. It has a lot of different great characteristics, and is antimicrobial, biodegradable and biocompostable.

We are using shell waste—seashell waste, lobster waste, crab waste, crab shell waste, and mushroom—to obtain chitosan. And we use that chitosan to mix with other biopolymer or green substances in a strong crosslinking process to produce the materials. 

At this stage, we start with leather first. So our material has the performance of leather, and it can be applied into different industries.

How do you create enough material to disrupt the fashion industry?

The biggest question is ‘how do you scale up your technology?’ And I believe that sustainability requires technology that can scale up, with the civilization, to meet the civilization where it’s at. 

So to answer that question about scalability, we at Tômtex, our technology is very easy to scale up because we use waste as our raw material. We use the existing equipment and factory again for our productions, so we don’t create the whole new system to create materials. 

So far, in our productions, we already create around 500 sheets of the materials with the lab-scale productions. In the future, it will be very easy for us to scale up with bigger facilities, better equipment, and even lower cost of the materials.

How do you believe material science can address the climate crisis?

Look around us, right—materials are the starting point of everything! And I believe that materials fundamentally have a great impact in our everyday life and our lifestyle. 

At Tômtex, we envision the world where people surround themselves with high performing materials, sourced directly from waste, not from fossil fuels.

Helex Bio: Building the GPS for Gene Therapies

CRISPR may be a Nobel Prize winning discovery, but its translation into a therapeutic use raises many questions on safety, edit specificity and their consequences. In CRISPR, a short RNA (guide RNA) navigates the Cas enzyme to make the edit in the right place, and this gRNA plays a critical role in safety. Helex’s novel platform is advancing the design, in vitro validation and manufacturing of therapy grade synthetic gRNAs to accelerate drug developers to enhance safety of their therapies. 

Watch Helex present at IndieBio NY Class 3 Demo Day

We spoke with CEO Poulami Chaudhuri, Ph.D., about a future without genetic disease. 

What is the mission of Helex Bio?

The mission of Helex is to drive synthetic guide RNA driven therapeutics to solve for rare genetic conditions by partnering with drug developers. Safety is one of the biggest challenges in translating promising technologies like CRISPR into workable therapies, and we want to contribute to making gene editing safer, ultimately accelerating these therapies to market. 

What inspired you to found Helex? 

I have experienced firsthand the advancement of science from a genetics perspective to be able to accurately read the genetic code and understand its consequences on human life. It is extremely inspiring to see how we have moved from accurately reading the code to holding the potential to actually solve for these conditions. 

As a new mother, I wanted to apply my extensive experience in the space of genetics, molecular biology and bioinformatics to contribute to alleviating the pain undergone by those who suffer from rare genetic conditions that until now have had no real solutions. 

What is the key to developing safer CRISPR-based gene therapies?

To develop safer CRISPR-based gene therapies, it is critical to deepen our understanding of the core cellular and tissue mechanisms, and thus to understand the impact of making a DNA edit on all aspects of these cell and tissue mechanics. 

While science has come a long way, the specificity of edits and its consequences of off-targets needs to be better understood and defined. The human body is complex, and every edit has a unique and significant impact. This impact has to be uncovered at many dimensions to make these therapies safer. 

How does Helex create safer therapies?

Helex is the GPS for gene editing. We look at the entire design of guide RNA from a three dimensional, four dimensional perspective. We have an AI-based modular platform that makes the most precise guide RNAs which are gene, cell & tissue specific. 

Today one of the biggest challenges for performing gene therapies within the body, or in vivo, is the unintended tissue effects. So while the entire field is working towards vector innovation and development, at Helex, we are designing tissue-specific guide RNAs. These tissue-specific guide RNAs act as an extra layer of safety even when there is a leaky expression by the vector.

What does it mean to design guide RNA from a 3D or 4D perspective?

At Helex, we are advancing this science using the principles of epigenetics which states that structure defines function. Every cell functions differently, and the epigenetics vary between cell types. 

Our platform informs guide RNA design keeping in mind these core principles, and are catered to every cell/ tissue type to make them extremely specific. This is especially pertinent when we talk about in-vivo or inside the body editing. 

In addition, we do a very detailed safety characterisation of the edits at the genotypic, phenotypic level, and keeping in mind the impact on the target gene and all other genes associated with it. This is the 3D/ 4D holistic approach that we take. 

How will you work with other cell & gene therapy companies? 

We intend to be a lead guide RNA optimizing partner for drug developers, where we custom design gRNAs using our platform and based on their therapeutic modality. We will validate  and characterize these gRNAs as drug substances and ultimately synthesize them for the drug developers. 

What keeps you motivated to bring your product to market? 

Complete strangers reach out to us on social media platforms like LinkedIn and give us encouragement because they have a loved one that is suffering from one of these conditions, and express their hope for these therapies to see the light of the day. We feel a sense of purpose and inspiration despite the surmounting challenges.

Ceragen: Growing a Sustainable Future through Probiotics for Plants

Ceragen produces probiotics for plants that help crops grow faster and bigger.  Their unique discovery platform allows Ceragen to identify the ideal microbial consortia for each crop type, including crops like tomatoes and lettuce.

Watch Ceragen present at IndieBio NY Class 3 Demo Day

We spoke to CEO Danielle Rose about the importance of producing high quality produce and her passion for commercializing research discoveries.

What is sustainable intensification and why is it important?

The majority of the world’s population does not have access to sufficient vegetables to actually meet a healthy diet. Also, in terms of climate change, it’s getting harder and harder to continue producing foods. So we’re having to clear more land, and just keep expanding our agricultural practices. 

What we really need to be doing—and what people are starting to do—is something called sustainable intensification, or producing more food from less land. This means that there is more land available for things like reforestation, and really not having to have that negative impact, like clearing the land that we have traditionally had to have with agriculture.

What makes you feel so passionate about commercializing basic research findings? 

​​There are researchers making all of these amazing discoveries all the time that never really make it to market because that process isn’t something taught to a lot of scientific people. We don’t get taught market discovery in school; we don’t get taught how to do basic business, how to see an idea and be like, hey, this can solve a real world problem that I think people would actually pay money to solve—we can get this out into the real world and make something of it. 

I think that’s a real shame, because there’s a lot of amazing research that just sits and doesn’t make the positive impact that it could! This is really a waste of resources and detrimental to society as a whole.

How did you help identify a market opportunity for plant probiotics?

I connected with some professors at the University of Waterloo who are researching plant growth-promoting microbes, since I was an area I was interested in. I started to help them do market discovery, since I had gained some business experience in the previous year, when I had worked on a startup that I started with a friend. 

One of the things that we had determined was, wow, we have this amazing market opportunity here with these microbial products! And the ability to not only make a social impact, where we help increase fresh vegetable production, so that people have a more sustainable, better opportunity to access the sort of fresh vegetables, but also to increase the environmental sustainability of agriculture by increasing the amount of food that we can produce from the same amount of land.

How do Ceragen products help produce more food?

Ceragen is developing microbial products that help plants in a number of ways. These microbes that we’re combining into basically consortiums, or groups, of microbes to help the plant offer benefits, like nitrogen fixation, helping the plants absorb phosphorus, promoting growth, as well as regulating stress. 

How we do that is to take known plant growth-promoting microbes that we have isolated from environmental samples, and test them in all these different plants, to figure out which ones work best under which circumstances in which plants. We combine those together into products that help plants basically increase yields by enabling them to use nutrients better, reducing the amount of fertilizer that is used, as well as promoting growth and the amount of fruit that these products are yielding—or in the case of leafy greens, the amount of vegetation and the size of the lettuce and how fast it gets to market.

Our first product, Ceragen Accelerate, is for use in tomato crops. And we’ve seen anywhere upwards of 20% yield increases in tomatoes in our tests. We are currently in commercial trials for that product, and we have 3 commercial pilots ongoing with greenhouse tomato growers.

What is the mission of Ceragen?

Our mission is to help growers sustainably increase crop yields so that they can generate more revenue from their farms as well as produce more food to help feed our growing population.

I think the concept of the microbiome is pretty new in the agricultural space, all things considered in agriculture. So this is an area where a lot of people have paid attention to in the past and it’s only really started to gain traction in the last little while. So I think that the newness of the problem is something that we do have to face and also, you know, there have been some products that have been used before. That didn’t necessarily live up to the claims that they made. So having really good testing data, having really good validity on the function of our products, is something that we’ve been really striving towards.

Inso Biosciences: A Genomic Solution

Inso Bio is solving the biggest bottleneck in genomic analysis: DNA extraction. This process currently takes highly skilled scientists several hours to complete, which Inso Bio can decrease to a 40 minute automated process.

Watch Inso Bio present at IndieBio NY Class 3 Demo Day

We spoke with CEO Harvey Tian, Ph.D., about the Inso Bio technology and Harvey’s vision for the future of genomics.

When did you learn about the problems in purifying DNA for genomic analyses? 

I became aware of how difficult it is to prepare samples and process biological samples during my PhD at Cornell. 

When people prepare genomic samples, right now they generally have to go through a series of steps to get to the DNA to a point where you can go into further analysis. That generally involves an extraction of the DNA, a purification of that DNA, and then a sizing of the DNA down to the proper sizes for the subsequent analysis. 

Generally when people are doing this, they use beads-and-columns technologies and binding technologies that rely on binding affinities to hold on to the DNA, and they have to wash and dilute that DNA, dehydrating it and rehydrating it through many cycles, as well as transferring that DNA and sample through many steps. This causes a lot of sample loss and a lot of sample damage: things that we can avoid using our Inso Bio system.

What is the mission of Inso Bio? 

Our company mission at Inso Bio is to make genomics more accessible, and to do so by building uniquely innovative tools as a front end processor of biology.

The unique aspect of our technology is that we’re able to keep the DNA in solution through the entire processing. And it owes to our nameIn So—by keeping it in solution. By doing so we’re actually damaging the DNA less, and our system can both extract and purify in the same step, which reduces the amount of time significantly.

We’re not trying to build a technology that is only useful for a specific type of analysis; what we are trying to build is a tool that can process biological samples for a wide range of genomic analyses. This includes DNA sequencing, for both short read sequencing as well as long read sequencing, as well as other types of analysis methods like optical mapping, for example.

How does your instrument better purify genomic DNA?

The Inso micropillar array can hold onto DNA similar to how you can think about a fork holding on to spaghetti: it’s purely based on the long lengths. It’s based off of the size of genomic DNA that is in our cells, and it can retain and hold onto that DNA, whereas other molecules, such as proteins, or lipids, or RNA, all that’s washed through our flow cell. That can be collected separately for multi-omics analysis, or it can be discarded, depending on the application.

I think that if we apply our solution correctly, we’ll be part of the background, essentially. What I mean by that is, Inso will be part of one of those ubiquitous instruments that sits on a lab bench and performs a certain process that everybody sees and recognizes and knows how to use. Similar to how a thermocycler is used for PCR, and many laboratories have a thermal cycler—we don’t see it as a novel piece of technology, but we wouldn’t be able to imagine going through the PCR process without a thermal cycler.

How does the micropillar array work? 

The underlying core component of our technology is the micropillar array technology. What this technology does is two very unique things that no other technology is capable of doing. 

The first is that it can physically extract DNA. Essentially, it doesn’t rely on any surface chemistry or binding chemistry in order to hold on to the DNA when the cells are popped, when they’re licensed. 

The second unique function of our system and this micropillar array is that it can purify the DNA through an inflow process by keeping the DNA in solution without needing to dehydrate and rehydrate that DNA through precipitation steps.

Who is on your team?

My team is composed of myself and my two co-founders, whom I have immense respect for. My first co-founder is Professor Harold Craighead, whom I actually did my PhD with. He was my PhD advisor. Harold was really the first person to believe in me and gave me the chance to not only study under him as a PhD student, but also supported me in the journey of the nascent formation of this company,

My second co-founder is Adam Bisogni. Adam and I had worked together for many years as PhD students, and then a few more years during his postdoc. He comes from more of a biological sciences background, and I come from more of an engineering heavy background. The way that we’ve been trained to approach problems happens to complement each other very well.

What will the world look like when genomic technologies become more widespread? 

I think that our world is set to be changed by genomics in the coming revolution that is brought on through genomic technologies. And similar to the computer revolution that changed our lives and our society. Genomics will likely have a similar level of impact—and similar to the computer revolution, which couldn’t have all happened if computers weren’t made accessible first, and not just for trained computer scientists to use, but for everyone to use. 

I think in the same way, that’s what we’re trying to do at Inso Bio is make performing genomics and genomic analysis itself more accessible and easier, in order to enable the genomic applications—both biological and clinical—of tomorrow.

Upright: Oat Milk that Nourishes Both People and the Planet

Milk should be a delicious and protein-rich drink, but many alternatives to cow’s milk lack its nutrient depth. Upright has created the world’s first protein-rich, allergen-free, vegan oat milk option with double (or more!) the protein of other oat milks. Upright then improves on cow’s milk to include ingredients that promote gut, heart, and bone health. In addition, each cup of Upright Oats saves 39 gallons of water compared with cow’s milk, making it the healthiest and most sustainable option.

Watch Upright present at IndieBio NY Class 3 Demo Day

We spoke to CEO Betty Tang about oats, building a startup, and how to provide the everyday consumer with healthy, sustainable options.

What is the mission of Upright?

Upright’s mission is to make delicious food that’s better for people and our planet.

I think the challenge inherent in that mission is that consumers are used to a certain way of eating and drinking, and a certain lifestyle. I think it’s challenging to these preconceived notions that, you know, dairy milk, for example, is the gold standard, or that alternative, plant-based products are not as nutritious.

How does Upright challenge the consumer’s idea of nutritious milk?

I think consumers have been conditioned by the dairy milk industry to think that dairy milk is the gold standard, in terms of the amount of protein it has, the amount of calcium, or vitamins in it. At Upright, we’re trying to challenge this assumption by creating a product that matches the nutritional profile of dairy milk. 

Each cup of Upright oat milk has eight grams of protein–but coming from oats rather than from cows–and it has the same amount of vitamins and minerals in terms of the calcium content, vitamins A, B, 12, and D as well, so that consumers can feel great and not feel like they’re making a nutritional trade off when they’re choosing Upright oat milk over dairy milk.

What is the planetary benefit of instant oat milk?

Oat milk is already very sustainable, just inherently, because it’s using oats over other crops that might require more resources. But instant oat milk is even more resource efficient, because instead of shipping a liquid product around the world–which requires a ton of weight and a lot of bulk, meaning it requires more energy to transport and emits a lot more carbon in that process–our instant oat milk instead is a powdered product– meaning that it’s much lighter in weight and much smaller in size–so that it can be shipped directly to consumers doorsteps with just a fraction of that carbon impact. 

Upright’s high protein, allergen-free, instant oat milk will contribute to solving the issue of animal agriculture, which has contributed to climate change, by giving consumers a choice where they don’t feel like they’re being forced to make trade offs. It’s a product that’s just as nutritious, that tastes great, and is super convenient, but without any of the unwanted health or environmental impacts.

What about your technology excites you?

Oats kept me really excited, which is a funny thing to say, but I think that oats are such an incredible crop. One of the big reasons is because they’re so hardy and naturally pest resistant, and so it doesn’t they don’t require as much fertilizer and pesticides and insecticides and herbicides as other crops do. This means that there’s less of these synthetic chemicals that can potentially leach off into neighboring community water supplies and impact human health. 

Another big reason is because they’re so resource efficient, they can grow in suboptimal conditions. They don’t require active irrigation; they are a rain fed crop, and they are good at growing over the winter as well. So they can grow during times of the year when other crops can’t necessarily be grown. 

And beyond that, they’re also really great for soil health. They’re really great at maintaining the nutrients in the soil and maintaining the structure of the soil so that nutrients don’t leak out of that soil.

What are your thoughts on competition in the alternative milk space?

I think the first question that investors or other people ask me about is, what about all the other competitors out there? There’s so many other oatmilk vendors, so many other alternatives in general. 

I’m actually very excited by all the competitors in that space. I think that it’s very clear that we have to make a change in terms of our diets. And the more competitors out there, that means there’s going to be more innovation and there will be more education for consumers and more choices. And I think that a rising tide lifts all ships. So it makes me really excited actually, to have all these other companies coming into the alternative milk space.

What motivates you day-to-day?

Building your own company and building a product that you personally want to see in the world is a super rewarding thing. I find a really strong sense of purpose and mission in what I do. 

The company stems from my passion for sustainability and my belief that business can be used as a force for good. So even when it does get challenging, thinking about the potential impact that I can create on the world is a really rewarding and motivating source for me to turn to and, and a pool of energy to draw on. 

So I think what keeps me motivated to continue the journey is just knowing that the potential impact that can create is so much bigger than just creating one single product, but to be able to introduce the world to a healthier, more sustainable way of life. That that can scale to such a large extent that it’s really exciting and motivating for me to keep moving.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hi, I’m Betty. I’m the founder of Upright. We make plant-based foods that are better for people and our planet, starting with a high-protein instant oat milk.

I was born in China, and I moved to Canada at the age of two. I grew up there in Vancouver, and I stayed there for my undergrad. I studied accounting and sustainability at the University of British Columbia. 

I never thought that I was gonna end up, you know, building a biotech company. But what happened after my undergrad was I ended up in management consulting, so I worked there for a bunch of giant fortune 500 companies in all sorts of different industries. And I found the most passion in serving these leaders in consumer goods and agriculture and in manufacturing.

What will the world look like when Upright succeeds?

It will not only be a lot more environmentally sustainable, using a lot less resources, emitting a lot less carbon, but also I think consumers will be a lot healthier as well, by choosing a product that doesn’t contain lactose and other unwanted allergens. I mean, two thirds of people are lactose intolerant, which is a huge percentage of the population! I think that people will be a lot healthier in terms of their gut and digestive health. 

And beyond that, I think that people can find a lot more convenience and ease in their lives by using an instant product where they don’t have to schlep themselves to the grocery store and keep it in their fridges and have it go bad. It’s really exciting that consumers can have something that is readily available in their pantries whenever they want to use it and to be able to take it wherever they want to go–whether they’re at home or if they’re, you know, heading on a plane or on a bus, it’s super portable. And so I think it’s a really great opportunity perhaps for a healthier, more sustainable and more convenient world.

RizLab Health: Bringing Instant Blood Analysis to Patients’ Fingertips

RizLab Health is addressing the pandemic of antimicrobial resistance and helping clinicians by pinpointing the source of infection (and thus preventing inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions) with their point-of-care device, the CytoTracker. The CytoTracker differentiates bacterial from viral infection profiles within minutes. A 200-person clinical study demonstrated the CytoTracker beats the specificity of current testing methods, making it the most affordable, portable, and accurate blood analyzer, with additional applications on the horizon.

Watch Rizlab Health present at IndieBio NY Class 3 Demo Day

We spoke with RizLab CEO Mehdi Javanmard, Ph.D., about his portable blood analyzer and what science tells us can really be tested using a drop of blood.

What work prepared you for making small, portable lab devices?

I started out working at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, where we were working on making accelerators that are normally several miles long, that can make electrons travel at the speed of light, down to the size of a shoe box. 

The lab that I did my doctoral studies in Stanford, the Stanford Genome Technology Center, was was home to numerous spin off companies, and numerous innovative discoveries in the space of biotechnology, namely, the DNA microarray, and also many important large biotech companies spun out of that lab, including Illumina. 

I was working on a project that involved taking large scale labs, and shrinking it down to the size of a chip.

How does the name RizLab relate to a portable white blood cell lab?

So as an electrical engineer, I was always fascinated with miniaturization. of labs. I did my doctoral studies on making labs for detecting cells, microbes, and mammalian cells, shrinking them, making them really small. I continued further developing these technologies over the years in an academic setting. 

When the technology got to a point where I felt it was robust enough to actually be used in the hands of patients, that’s when we decided to spin off a company. 

The word riz in Farsi, which is the language spoken in Iran, which is the land that my parents immigrated from over 40 years ago, means very tiny. And since I’ve dedicated my whole career to making very tiny labs, we decided to name the company, Riz Lab.

How does the first product from RizLab Health, the Cytotracker, measure blood components?

The Cytotracker is a fully electronic device that has a really small reader thatt fits in the palm of your hand, and a tiny microchip that plugs in, which is disposable. And the disposable test strip has inside it a microfluidic channel with sensors. 

What that means is that there’s a tiny channel that is thinner than the diameter of one human hair, where cells pass over micro electronic sensors in a single file line, similar to how airport passengers walk through a security line in a single file line, walking past a facial scanner.

Can you really do this with only a drop of blood?

The first question that investors and scientists alike ask us is: can you really do this with only a drop of blood? The answer is that there are many things that you can do with only a drop of blood, many different analytes [you can measure] as long as you’re focused, and you’re targeting the right set of analytes so that the concentrations are not widely different. 

What’s difficult though, with a single drop of blood is, trying to tackle a wide range of analytes, trying to do 200 things at once that have, you know, over six orders of magnitude, right? That’s one million times difference in concentration—that’s very hard. 

Focusing on molecules and analytes that are fewer in number while using a more targeted approach—that’s something that is completely feasible.

What insight allowed you to create the Cytotracker?

Quantifying white blood cells in a drop of blood is challenging, because it’s similar to a haystack that has hundreds of millions of straws of hay with a few thousand needles, and you’re trying to find out exactly how many needles are in that haystack. 

What we did was come up with a novel way to make the hay straws invisible, electrically, and only be able to detect and quantify the needles.

How does your recent clinical trial support the mission of RizLab Health?

RizLab’s mission is to democratize diagnostic technology by making it extremely portable and extremely affordable. 

Results of our recent 200-person study mean for RizLab is that it proves the speed, the portability, and also the accuracy of our device, showing that this is a commercially viable option that has the potential to make it all the way to regulatory clearance. 

I hope to see in the future that one day everybody will have access to tiny labs, so that they can continuously monitor their health and so that diseases can be diagnosed within minutes, not days.

Pannex Therapeutics: Anti-Addictive Painkillers to Save Lives

Cells send “danger” signals to alert the immune system when they are under attack. Under the wrong conditions, these signals can lead to chronic inflammation and many downstream pathologies, including chronic pain. Pannex Therapeutics stops the production of one of these danger signals—extracellular ATP—by blocking a protein called the Pannexin 1 channel, which sends ATP outside of the cell. This novel mode of action will help Pannex CEO David Bravo, Ph.D., as he develops drugs to treat chronic pain and other diseases caused by incorrect danger signaling.

Watch Pannex Therapeutics present at IndieBio NY Class 3 Demo Day

We spoke to David about building Pannex Therapeutics.

What inspired you to help those suffering from chronic pain?

When I was a clinician, I had to support a lot of people in pain. And it was super frustrating to see how they struggled with that. And the drugs appear not to work and it’s like, what’s going on here? This is a human burden, and nobody seems to care. 

And also my mother in law, she suffers chronic pain, everyday. She started on opioids and we almost lost her. There’s gotta be another thing to do, and there was nothing. So I took action.

I’m David Bravo, I’m the CEO of Pannex Therapeutics. I’m from Chile, although I was born in Brazil, and by training, I’m a physical therapist and a PhD in neuroscience. From that point from the PhD, I started with this crazy idea of: what if I have one molecule that can block many diseases? And I found that target in the Pannexin 1 channel.

What are the biggest problems around chronic pain?

Chronic pain is a high demand medical need because it affects 100 million Americans today. And it costs billions of dollars to the healthcare system. And the best choice that the patients have, the opioids, are killing one American every 15 minutes. And the other drugs, the non opioids, fail in 50% of the cases in relieving pain.

We are trying to change the opinion that there is no solution for chronic pain. This is a common opinion among physicians, that chronic pain is a too-complex phenomenon, so it’s really almost impossible to solve it. But we believe we can do that—and it’s not being pretentious, because science backs this up. We believe that we will bring a definite solution.

What is the mission at Pannex Therapeutics?

The company mission at Pannex is to become the first and only Pannexin 1 channel company, and from that to help mankind to solve many problems in different therapeutic areas.

The other opinion we are trying to change here is that you can treat many diseases by targeting just one target. This is why we’re called Pannex Therapeutics. 

We believe (and our investors, too) that if we target Pannexin, we can go for chronic pain, which I discovered during my PhD, but also go on to pursue and solve and prevent opioid addiction, autism, epilepsy and your inflammation, and other indications. 

There’s tons of data that supports these ideas. And we’re trying to replicate those with our molecules that are selective to the channel. 

What is your unique therapeutic solution for chronic pain? 

Our solution for chronic pain is called PNX3. It’s a molecule that is selective and potent to block specifically the Pannexin1 channel.

We found that PNX3 decreases chronic musculoskeletal chronic pain in rat models at the same level of gabapentin, which is the main competitor on the market, but with 10 times less dose, which means less side effects and less toxicity. 

Also, we found that PNX3 is able to decrease ATP release from brain cells. The Pannexin 1 channel mostly secretes or releases ATP, and we were able to decrease that by 97%, so we have a clear mechanism of action. 

We further discovered that PNX3 crosses the membrane to go directly from the blood to the brain—and it is safe for the brain, because we make experiments in which we put together brain cells and the drug for 24 hours and 100% of the brain cells survived.

How will you get your therapeutic compounds into patients’ hands?

We are narrowing down our selection in order to get to our final candidate. We will look for an easy and quick way to pass through the FDA approval; with that, we will start our safety studies in healthy humans for the phase one clinical trial. 

After that, we’ll go to phase two clinical trials in small groups of people in pain, for example. At that point, we will work in parallel on other indications in humans, probably migraine, epilepsy and, of course, opioid addiction, with the molecules that have been already approved by the FDA to be tested in humans. Then the next one, we go to bigger multi-center studies into phase three clinical trials. 

We believe, as a company, that we can provide this package of technology to the pharmaceutical companies that have the resources and experience to go for it and go to the market. 

Busting Top Manufacturing Myths at Unexpected Biotech

The future is in fermentation, but what does that mean to benchtop scientists who want to produce consumer or therapeutic products at industrial scale? During the IndieBio-produced event, Unexpected Biotech, IndieBio NY Managing Director Stephen Chambers spoke with Stuart Wilkinson, Co-Founder and Technology Director of BioBrew. The conversation broke down several myths of startup scale up.

See the future of biotech at IndieBio Demo Days!

Myth 1: There is no such thing as a universal best microbial fermenter.

Question: What is the best microbial system to produce biological products via fermentation?

Answer: There isn’t one ‘ideal’ system.

Instead, the best microbial host for recombinant expression must be decided for each use case. “Being locked into a certain host system because of familiarity with it is the wrong approach,” says Wilkinson. 

All hosts have strengths and weaknesses: for example, bacteria grow quickly but are susceptible to phage infection, especially at the industrial scale. Slower growing hosts like filamentous fungi require more time to ferment but also more time to develop the ideal production strain. Startups should consider expression levels and determine the titers that they want to produce. 

Myth 2: Scale up is much more complicated than most people appreciate.

“Microtiter plates are great for screening and high throughput experiments, but not really representative of industrial scale,” says Wilkinson. “Industrial food biotech and yeast systems are 100,000-500,000 liters; microtiter plates have very little in common in the process or dynamics that mimic those systems.”

If one’s aspiration is to go from a microtiter plate to industrial scale, the best strategy is to use a downscaling system. Rather than going upward in incremental steps, decide the aspirational scale. This will help define the physical/chemical parameters that are the constraints, and incremental experiments can be planned backwards for a pilot scale, lab scale, and (“if you’re capable and clever enough,” says Wilkinson), the microtiter scale.

Downscaling helps ward off the glass ceilings that many startups see when upscaling: technical problems that they can’t break through that can be amplified into potentially big problems when reaching industrial scale.

Myth 3: Downstream processing is more than an afterthought.

When people start to design strain and process combinations, it’s often strain engineering first, then fermentation, and then downstream processing to collect the product. “You’ve really got to look at this more holistically and think of the entire process as one,” says Wilkinson.

Myth 4: The ‘scale-up savior syndrome.’

Many startups assume that equipment and processes will be more efficient at higher scale. Wilkinson says, “ultimately, if your strain and process don’t work at a lab scale, it’s highly unlikely it will work at industrial scale.”

Think of scale-up as the opportunity to fine-tune and optimize processes, rather than solve problems. Have a line-of-sight techno-economic viability at the lab and pilot scale before considering demonstration and industrial scale. 

Ultimately, “this goes back to the modeling,” says Wilkinson. Bring in the cost of goods at the scale you aim to produce. This provides a baseline and if your theoretical practice fails to meet the breakpoint, you can expect challenges ahead. “Models are fantastic, and I wouldn’t do any work without strong models,” says WIlkinson, “but models are only as strong as the assumptions you make and the data you plug into those models. There’s no substitute for real-world data.”

Find more insights from the IndieBio-produced event, Unexpected Biotech

Unexpected Biotech

New York biotechnology is building the world of tomorrow and improving human and planetary health. IndieBio NY hosted “Unexpected Biotech: Innovative Technologies Emerging from New York Life Sciences,” to showcase the many sectors in which biology can be turned into technology.

Summaries and recordings from the event are linked below.

See the future of biotech at IndieBio Demo Days!

Innovation Success Stories: Building Big Biotech in New York

Review the session here

Hear how one New York biotech company leveraged previously undiscovered connections between the brain and the gut, in this fireside chat with the CEO of Kallyope.

  • Michael Aberman, SOSV
  • Nancy Thornberry, Kallyope

Manufacturing in the New Bioeconomy

Review the session here

The manufacturing industry is undergoing a radical shift. Hear how New York is leading the change in bioproduction.

  • Stephen Chambers, SOSV
  • Stuart Wilkinson, BioBrew
  • Will Canine, Opentrons

Building Greener with Biology

Review the session here

Biotech creates the opportunity to build a more sustainable infrastructure and eliminate our dependence on petrochemicals. Learn which industries are shifting, which are ripe for disruption, and how partnering for growth can lead to success.

  • Gwen Cheni, SOSV
  • Suzanne Lee, Biofabricate
  • Eben Bayer, Ecovative Design and Atlast Foods

The Future of New York Biotechnology

Review the session here

New York offers biotechnology companies unmatched access to top talent, financing, and technical capabilities. Join this discussion as two biotechnology companies discuss what the city has to offer and what they need out of a tech base.

  • Po Bronson, SOSV
  • Matias Muchnick, NotCo
  • Alex Lorestani, Geltor

Climate Tech Investing

Review the session here

New York Venture Capital is committed to creating a healthier planet. Listen to the investor perspective on the most promising life science technologies in this space.

  • Sean O’Sullivan, SOSV
  • Dan Altschuler Malek, Unovis Asset Management
  • Lauren Rodriguez, ZX Ventures

Announcing IndieBio 2021 Demo Days

Announcing IndieBio Demo Days:

Two days to showcase the IndieBio classes and the amazing work accomplished throughout the four-month IndieBio program.

Rewatch IndieBio New York Demo Day: broadcast June 22, 2021

Rewatch IndieBio San Francisco Demo Day: July 15, 2021

IndieBio startups are founded by some of the most creative, ingenious, and fantastical people on earth. Our founders bet everything they have on their abilities to improve the world using science. The current batches, IndieBio NY 02 and IndieBio SF 11, founded their companies in the midst of a global pandemic, determined to advance their technologies and business models in our post-COVID world. IndieBio is proud to present the advancements these companies have made in our two distinct Demo Days. Fighting Mosquitoes with Mosquitoes combines computer vision and deep biological knowledge to fight mosquitoes and their diseases. We spoke with CEO Vic Levitin about’s solution to the mosquito problem.

Watch and read an abbreviated version of the conversation below.

What is the mosquito problem?

Mosquitoes are the most dangerous animal alive: they kill nearly a million humans every year and infect 700 million more with diseases like Zika virus, malaria, and yellow fever.

The mosquito problem is a spreading one. Thanks to climate change, the mosquito-friendly habitat is expanding. By the year 2050, half the world’s population will be living among mosquito infected areas. 

There are no vaccines or treatments to most of the mosquito-borne diseases, and the solutions to control mosquito populations depend mostly on pesticides; this uses chemicals that are toxic to both humans and the environment. These are quickly losing their productivity because the mosquitoes are becoming resistant to these insecticides.

Why has Sterile Insect Technique failed to address the mosquito problem?

Sterile Insect Technique, or SIT, relies on one beautiful fact: male mosquitoes mate repeatedly while females mate only once. Based on this concept, when you release large quantities of sterile male mosquitoes, they mate with wild females and there are no progeny, diluting and depleting the population.

This is the core of the technique, but it isn’t new; SIT has been around since the mid-1940s. It’s been widely used for other types of insects, but there’s been a major bottle neck with implementing this technique for mosquitoes: you want to be very precise to release only sterilized male mosquitoes. Only the female mosquitoes take bloodmeals; if you release any females, they can still bite and transmit disease. You want to be as close to 100% accuracy in releasing only males.

Another problem is the sex sorting of mosquitoes at the adult stage, which is what is currently done. Adults are fragile and have a short lifespan, so they are difficult to ship. You need a facility to grow, set, and ship, which is why this technique, although very promising, is not being widely implemented. It’s just super expensive at the moment.

What has innovated in mosquito sex-sorting technologies?

We developed a technology to sex sort mosquitoes much earlier, in the larval stage. At this stage, the mosquitoes are much more robust, and they have about 2 weeks prior to becoming adults. That’s 2 weeks that we could ship all over the world.

Sorting at the larval stage allows us to introduce a new business model to the industry, where instead of having to build your own facility, we can ship sterile mosquitoes to you and use sterile insect technique as a service.

How does your team have the unique ability to build this technology?

I’m fortunate to be joined by 2 co-founders that are exponentially smarter than I am. Each of them brings along more than 15 years of experience in their own fields. 

Elly Ordan has been working with insects for his entire adult life, so he really knows his stuff when it comes to insects. He brings a unique knowledge of how to recognize differences between males and females at the larval stage. Ariel Livne is an expert in automation and optics, and he translates Elly’s mind into an artificial intelligence and an automated machine. 

Who will’s customers be?

The current annual spending on mosquito control in the US is $2.5 billion dollars. The private market spends $2 billion, and half a billion is spent by mosquito control districts. Because existing solutions are toxic and inefficient, we estimate a $15 billion untapped market in the US alone.

This estimate is based on the fact that out of 80 million households with private lawns, half of them already have a mosquito problem, and only about 2 million households are buying mosquito control. The rest have basically given up on their outdoors during the mosquito season.

We offer an effective and sustainable solution at a comparable price. Our strategy is to start from the mosquito control districts, as they have both successful experience with SIT for agricultural pests and immediately available budgets. To that end, we have an LOI from a major US mosquito control district. We’ll then expand to the residential market, where we have signed an LOI with one of the largest mosquito control companies in the US.

How do you imagine will grow as the SIT technologies matures?

At this point, we’ve spoken to dozens of experts from all around the world: from the U.S., from Asia, South America, South Africa and the Gulf Coast. For us, it’s clear that SIT will be implemented widely and will be a default mosquito control solution. It’s important to say it won’t be a silver bullet: you still need other methods as well, practices like eliminating still water, and educate the community not to leave open water containers, and so on. But it’s really not a question of if SIT will be implemented, it’s a matter of when and who will do it. We believe we hold the key to unlock scale for the sterile insect technique and essentially create this industry.

See Diptera.AI pitch at IndieBio New York’s Demo Day here.

Cayuga: Treating All Forms of Bleeding

Cayuga Biotech is a preclinical therapeutics company whose lead compound, CAY001, shows promise to change the way that severe bleeding episodes are treated. We spoke with CEO Damien Kudela, who explained the science and path forward for Cayuga.

Watch and read an abbreviated version of the conversation below.

How did you transition from academia to biotech entrepreneur?

I had never envisioned an academic route for my career and by the time I was done, I was looking for a new way to apply my scientific knowledge. Cayuga was seeded by a conversation I had in my 4th year of my Ph.D., where someone said that there was a real need for this technology and I should think about creating a company to advance it. Since we’d already been in the early stages of patenting my thesis and the CAY001 drug, I figured ‘I’ve already been a starving grad student; why not go be a starving entrepreneur as well?’

How do platelets work with polyphosphate to promote clotting, and where does CAY001 fit in?

If you think of a clot as a brick-and-mortar material, the platelets form the bricks. There’s a second compound called fibrinogen which is the mortar. That constitutes the physical clot. 

The problem becomes how to get that brick wall to plug the wound. Polyphosphate is produced by platelets and is essentially a catalyst for clot formation, a molecule whose job it is to speed things up. Adding polyphosphate helps the clot to form more quickly, which enables the clot to shut off the bleeding more quickly.

Bleeding causes a lot of negative outcomes for patients, so stopping the bleeding has many benefits. Not only are you saving their lives by reducing blood loss, but you can actually reduce the time it takes for them to heal as well. 

Bleeding causes a lot of negative outcomes for patients, so stopping the bleeding has many benefits. Not only are you saving their lives by reducing blood loss, but you can actually reduce the time it takes for them to heal as well. 

How does CAY001 differ from other pro-clotting drugs available?

Typically, many currently available drugs are recombinant factors that are either direct mimics of endogenous proteins or slight alterations of these same proteins. 

The issue with bleeding and clotting is that they are two sides of a seesaw. Typically, a patient is balanced flat but when they get injured, and start bleeding, the seesaw tips toward the dangerous effects of too much bleeding. Unfortunately, what can happen with recombinant drugs is that the balance remains out of whack; they can tip the seesaw in the other direction and they can have the dangerous effects of what’s called ‘throwing clots.’ 

This is a huge problem. All the drugs that treat bleeding currently have a black box label warning because of that. And doctors have to weigh a crucial decision in treating patients, asking whether the patient is critical enough to warrant the safety risk.

Using polyphosphate as a catalyst differs from these drugs because it has an effect on the rate, but it doesn’t affect the specific clotting factors present. For example, polyphosphate has its biggest effect on the clotting factor, thrombin. The patient doesn’t produce more thrombin. Polyphosphate has a more limited effect, so you can hopefully use it in a safer way.

What data support your hypothesis?

We’ve been looking at different tissues, specifically the lungs. This seems to be where a lot of nano-based drugs fail. Obviously, the liver is also a concern, because it plays such a huge role in clotting. And of course, the blood-brain barrier. 

What we’ve done is compared CAY001 to saline in a pig model. Pigs are hyper-clotters, so there was some evidence of clotting, but it was the same in both the saline and CAY001 drug-treated animals. That was likely the results of the pigs’ natural clotting cascade, but obviously, safety is the number one concern, especially in this field. The first question we’re always asked is, “is it safe?”

“Is it effective” is always the second question. We’re on the pathways and have very promising data that we’ve seen so far to lead us through safety, and the remaining IND-enabling studies as well as our clinical trials.

What will your clinical trials focus on for the first indication?

Until IndieBio, we were fully funded by DARPA and the Army. Obviously, bleeding is a huge problem on the battlefield and causes about 50% of deaths. There’s also a huge problem with bleeding here in the U.S., especially as patients age and may need to be prescribed anti-clotting drugs such as plavix or coumadin. The problem is that these patients are already in the clotting phase; they’re given anti-clotting drugs and they go back to a risk of bleeding. A lot of it is done because there is no treatment for bleeding.

There are other conditions where patients may benefit from a drug like CAY001. We’ve been focusing recently on platelet dysfunction. This could also benefit patients on chemotherapy who end up with thrombocytopenia, as well as patients who have congenital platelet disorders. We’ve identified a hemophilia-like genetic disease that affect platelets, as opposed to Factors 8 or 9. There’s a wide range of people who may benefit.

Obviously, everybody thinks the quantity of life is a major benefit, because bleeding can kill very quickly. Stopping a bleed also importantly enables patients to have a better quality of life, so they don’t have to worry about shaving or having an accident, whether the kitchen will be fatal. You can really help to give patients their life back.

Who is the Cayuga Biotech team?

I was at UC Santa Barbara, and the sole graduate student who really did any animal experiment at UC Santa Barbara was Kyle Ploetze. Kyle actually has a very good story of the first time we med; I’ll let him tell it another time. I ended up working with Kyle to test our new drug, and we hit it off while doing the test. The data worked well, and we got along well. Kyle and I jokingly refer to CAY001 as kind of our baby.

We were the two initial co-founders; in 2019, we needed to add a third person to do a lot of our quality controls. We were working on our manufacturing, and Nate, a postdoc at UC Santa Barbara, interviewed and we thought he was excellent, so brought him on board. It’s been excellent working together.

What are the next major milestones for Cayuga on the road ahead?

We had our first meeting with the FDA in May 2020, so we’ve gotten feedback. What we really need to do is finish our PK/PD and tox studies. These will help to figure how the drug is cleared and its toxicity; are there any adverse effects from the drug, what doses are safe, what doses are effective. Really, we need to determine it’s safe enough to move to human trials. We’re excited to present our data at Demo Day.

Learn more about Cayuga Biotech and all of IndieBio New York Class 1 companies at Demo Day.

BioFeyn: Making Eating Healthy Fish Sustainable

BioFeyn is a company that aims to make farmed fish a truly sustainable practice. We spoke with CEO Timothy Bouley to learn more about how nanotechnology can create better fish. 

Watch and read an abbreviated version of the conversation below.

What are the problems with current farmed fish practices?

There are many ingredients used in fish feed; the kind of fish that we eat most frequently are ocean predators, things like salmon. Salmon naturally eat other animals and so salmon feed often includes other fish; the fish in this feed is often caught from the open ocean, depleting wild populations and contributing to overfishing. The FIFO, which is the “fish in, fish out” ratio, for a species like salmon, that can be more than one. By putting more fish into the system than you’re producing, the system is not efficient.

There’s also an incredible amount of waste associated with this process due to the excess nutrients that are dumped into the fish pens, which then goes into the environment. Additionally, a lot of fish die, adding to environmental contamination.

BioFeyn is taking the latest science from human biomedicine and applying to the space of aquaculture, or farmed fish. Our team is unique in that each of us come from the world of human biomedicine—I’m a medical doctor, my cofounder Umberto is a nanotechnologist and our other cofounder Marie-Christine Imbert is a molecular biologist—and we are taking some of these latest technologies and simply applying them to the word of aquaculture, where there’s ample opportunity to scale up these biotechnological developments.

What can you tell us about your Feyn products?

Essentially it’s a capsule, on the nanoscale, that encapsulates existing ingredients, such as nutrients or medicines, that can be used in aquaculture to greatly increase their efficiency and improve overall sustainability in the field. Our Feyns are made of all natural ingredients, all already approved ingredients in this space.

We’re focussing on high-value ingredients that are already in fish food but are delivered very inefficiently. One example is omega-3 fatty acids; everyone knows that these are why we eat fish, to get the omega-3s and gain cardiovascular health and brain health. The problem is that salmon get omega-3 fatty acid by eating other fish. We can encapsulate it and include it in salmon feed, increasing feeding efficiency by an order of magnitude, tenfold. This increase in omega-3s is passed on to a customer that eats BioFeyn-treated fish feed.

We’re looking to encapsulate many different ingredients, part of how we determine what the characteristics of a successful Feyn. Number one, we look for things that are expensive. Number two, ingredients that are marine-derived that have a secondary, more sustainable means of production. 

For example, previously omega-3s have come from smaller fish to the salmon, but the natural environmental source of omega-3 fatty acids is in fact algae, and the smaller fish that eat algae pass that up the food chain, eventually reaching salmon. New ingredient companies are farming algae, and these omega-3s can be taken directly from algae and inserted into the fish feed, bypassing the need for wild-caught fish. The problem is that these omega-3s can be very expensive, and our method increases the efficiency tenfold. We can make it cost effective to use an ingredient that benefits fish, farmer, and consumer.

We can make it cost effective to use an ingredient that benefits fish, farmer, and consumer.

How will BioFeyn get its product to the fish?

There are many different ways to address this, one of which is going directly to feed producers; these folks have global reach to the farmers of the world. There are many, many tens of thousands of fish farmers, shrimp farmers, crustacean farmers around the world, and there are many, many fewer feed producers. Working directly with the feed producers is the most efficient way to reach as many farmers as possible.

That said, there is a path to working with farmers either individually or through trade organizations that represent a number of farmers and developing specialized products for farmers. 

What other products might BioFeyn use its technology to produce?

We have a roadmap for how our platform technology, where our nanocapsules can encapsulate a number of different ingredients. That includes probiotics, essential oils, that includes medicines that are approved in aquaculture. This is really key: there are a lot of medicines that work for some of the trickier fish diseases that are heavily regulated and can, of course, cause environmental pollution; with our technology, we can massively increase the efficiency and reduce the amount needed.

Down the horizon, in the future, we imagine encapsulating antigens as well, with some potential to developing vaccines. So you know, basically the spectrum of aquatic animal health that we think can be addressed with our encapsulation technology. We anticipate the technology will reach a point where it is fully modular and we have recipes for any challenge in this space, whether it be nutritional or infectious.

The ocean is the lifeblood of all life on Earth. All humans are three-quarters salt water. We came out of the ocean and there’s so much that can be done with understanding the marine environment and combining it with the latest biotechnologies that can be used for human and oceanic health.

Learn more about BioFeyn and all of IndieBio New York Class 1 companies at Demo Day.

Biomage: Making Single-Cell Sequencing Data Accessible to Research Biologists

Biomage is a computational biology company with a unique software that allows scientists to explore the multiverse of human cells through single-cell sequencing. We spoke with CEO Adam Kurkiewicz about the ability to turn every biologist into a bioinformatician.

Watch and read an abbreviated version of the conversation below.

How is single-cell transcriptomics changing biomedicine?

Single-cell transcriptomics, or single-cell sequencing, is a relatively recently discovered method, and is used to really understand what’s happening inside living organisms at the level of individual cells. This is something I like to compare to the invention of the light microscope when scientists were for the first time able to look at individual cells. Single-cell sequencing gives us the ability to look at individual cells, from the inside. It’s a unique capability that has only emerged in the past couple of years.

This technology is not specific to just one type of biomedical researcher, but is used throughout many fields of biology, including prominently cancer research, cardiovascular research, and developmental biology.

What problem in bioinformatics is Biomage solving for researchers?

One of the biggest challenges in applying single-cell transcriptomics is that it will be difficult to scale the technology to every biologist who wants to use it. At Biomage, we make it possible for every biologist to analyze a single-cell dataset without having to develop the really, really elite expertise that has been required so far to carry out such analysis. 

We do this by effectively removing a step: the process where the files created from analysis of a sample of tissue are normally first worked on by a research bioinformatician. We remove that step entirely by automating the research bioinformatician and making it possible for biologists to become the bioinformatician themselves. This benefits not just the cost efficiency, but it’s also quicker: quicker to iterate, quicker to test the hypothesis directly. It also removes the potential issues with miscommunication and knowledge transfer between 2 different fields, biology and bioinformatics. 

What are the benefits of empowering biologists to analyze single-cell transcriptomics?

We are significantly cutting down the amount of time required to carry out such analysis. Typical single-cell analysis using a bioinformatician working part-time takes between 3-6 months to deliver the level of insight that is required for a publication in a high-profile journal. Our aim as a company is to bring that process down to a week or two of hand-on analysis by the biologist directly with the software. 

The bulk of the cost savings is specifically eliminating reliance on a consulting service or partnership with a qualified bioinformatician. There is some additional cost reduction in how we handle the data and how we can process the data by a close integration with the core facilities where the sequencing actually happens to make it more cost effective to process the data and carry out the computational aspects of the analysis as well.

Scientists need excellent software. It’s often treated as an afterthought or something that is only a small part of research grants.

Who will your initial customers be, and will this change as you iterate the product?

We’ll work first with core facilities. Those at core facilities are happy to partner with us because working together, we can actually deliver the biggest value to their customers: the researchers. We can free the core facilities staff for work on the truly creative and difficult aspects of the field. In a core facility, there are typically bioinformaticians who are taking care of as many as 50 projects; they really need the ability to cope with the analytical needs of that many projects efficiently. By bringing the time down to 1-2 weeks, we make it possible for bioinformaticians to effectively do their job, so they’re very happy to partner with us. 

On both sides of the Atlantic, both in the U.K. and in the U.S., the core facilities have been overwhelmingly positive and we expect these partnerships to further expand into other core facilities and to grow stronger by closely integrating together.

The bulk of the users and the real impact of the software that we’re building is going to most likely come from other sectors, including pharmaceutical research and biotechs. Our plan is to initially target the academic customers as a way to validate our technology and get an initial beachhead and enter into this space. For the next stage, we’re going to target biotech and pharmaceutical companies—they’re the next customer.

What provided you with unique insight into this problem?

My journey started on the other side of programming, computer programming and mathematics. I worked a short time in Skyscanner, a software company where I understood what social engineering is like and understood how software can be used to solve real-life issues and help people to accomplish major tasks.

The biological side came a bit later. To have a really impactful professional life, I wanted to come at it closer to human health and so I enrolled in a Ph.D. program at the University of Glasgow, where I ended up doing bioinformatics. I managed to find a way to merge my scientific interests with my software engineering interests! While a Ph.D. student, I realized that there was a really big need for bioinformaticians among biologists I worked with, so I started offering such analysis as a consulting service. 

With my co-founders Marcel and Iva, we quickly realized that it would be impossible for us to cope with the demands. The most impactful way to allocate our efforts would actually be to build a software solution to solve the difficult problem of the alignment biologists to understand single-cell data. 

Scientists need excellent software. It’s often treated as an afterthought or something that is only a small part of research grants. Through conversations with senior colleagues and in academia, I realized the best way to realize the mission of building really great software that can help was by creating a company.

What does the future hold in store for Biomage?

We would like everybody to be able to use Biomage as their solution of choice for single-cell data analytics and expand into other technologies such as spatial transcriptomics. We hope to dominate the landscape for single-cell data analytics.

Learn more about Biomage and all of IndieBio New York Class 1 companies at Demo Day.

Brightcure: Reviving, Restoring, and Replenishing a Woman’s Intimate Microbiome.

Brightcure is a company dedicated to improving women’s health. We asked Brightcure CEO Chiara Heide questions about the first product, a bioactive cream that promotes a healthy microbiome in a woman’s urogenital tract. 

Watch and read an abbreviated version of the conversation below.

Your personal story lends a lot of motivation. Will you please share it?

I personally suffered from chronic urinary tract infections, caused by harmful bacteria that enter the bladder and cause an infection. However, I’m not alone; every second woman worldwide suffers from these infections, and many are my friends and family.

I was super frustrated with the treatment situation because urinary tract infections are basically treated by antibiotics. There aren’t validated alternatives available and antibiotic resistance is now much more common. What that means is that many women experience a vicious cycle, to constantly contract infections and subsequently constantly take antibiotics. 

This is not a sustainable solution; it’s bad for the immune system and the natural microbiota. Antibiotics destroy the microbiome of your vaginal flora, and create many side effects, including making it more likely to get another infection because you don’t have the good bacteria in your intimate area anymore. Because of my frustration with this situation, I used my scientific background to look into new solutions. 

Tell us about Brightcure’s unique solution.

It’s very exciting: we basically found a good bacterium and we can use a good actor to fight the bad bacteria. Our bacterium is one that naturally exists on some healthy individuals and animals and can also be found in nature. There is nothing externally introduced.

This bacterium specifically fights the bad bacteria, but it does not affect the good bacteria of the urogenital tract, so it’s perfect for the intimate care area, because it balances your vaginal flora.

By fighting these bad bacteria, it gives the good bacteria room to colonize the vaginal area. This is what balances and promotes the good bacteria in the intimate area.

Is there risk of resistance developing to this solution?

There have been decades of research conducted with this bacteria and there is no associated risk with it. There has been extensive animal research around it and also testing in different human cells, and it has been in no way negative at all. 

This good bacterial strain basically eats the bad bacteria that cause these recurrent urinary tract infections. These normally travel from the rectum to infect the vaginal area. Our strain sees and kills bad bacteria, but it does not affect the good bacteria, those like Lactobacillus that promote vaginal flora. It is very targeted. 

How will women have access to Brightcure’s cream?

We are using this bacterium in our cream. It will be an intimate cream sold as a cosmetic cream that women apply externally to their intimate area; our bacterium is in that cream.

The cream will be sold as a cosmetic, making it a consumer product that women can easily access. We have a newsletter on our website to get the latest updates on our product development and our product itself. We also have a list where you can sign up for pre-launch notification if you are really keen on the product. We’ll have the product ready next year (2021).

We aim to destigmatize the conversation around intimate health. The community aspect is really important for me, because there’s not enough awareness around UTIs and the stress levels around chronic infection. It has a huge impact on women’s life.

To make the claim specifically around preventing UTIs, we will be partnering with clinicians and healthcare providers for rigorous clinical studies. These will allow us to make more specific claims about efficacy in the future.

How does this cream promote a healthy intimate microbiome? 

By fighting these bad bacteria, it gives the good bacteria room to colonize the vaginal area. This is what balances and promotes the good bacteria in the intimate area.

How will Brightcure change women’s intimate health in the future?

I hope to create a huge supportive Brightcure community, who uses our products. I hope we can reduce their suffering and bring back happiness to their everyday life with less stress. I hope we raise awareness for UTI and UTI patients because it has a major impact on a woman’s life, as well as how important the vaginal flora is to boost one’s immune system.

Learn more about Brightcure and all of IndieBio New York Class 1 companies at Demo Day.

Multus Media: Enabling the Food of the Future

Multus Media is a company producing the key ingredient to allow cultivated meat to become affordable and accessible to everyone. We spoke to CEO Cai Linton about his entrepreneurial journey.

Watch and read a lightly edited version of the conversation below.

What is cultivated meat?

Conventional meat and cultivated meat actually produce the same end product. They both produce burgers, sausages, steaks, and fillets. The difference between the two is the production system. Instead of producing these meats through an animal, all we do with cultivated meat is to take a cellular sample from an animal without having to kill the animal. It’s grown in bioreactors, similar to how we brew beer, but using these cells instead of yeast. The cells are then packaged into meats to create the same product.

Cultivated meat processes solve the environmental and ethical problems associated with meat consumption, to alleviate the environmental damage and greenhouse gas production associated with livestock and conventional agriculture, as well as the heavy antibiotic use, large areas of rainforest cut down to support livestock, and microplastic contamination, among other problems. Within bioreactors, you’re only producing the meat that will actually build and eat, by feeding them the exact nutrients and supporting their growth environment with very little waste.

Why isn’t cultivated meat available at the market?

My co-founders and I wondered what challenges stood in front of producing cultivated meat at high scale. We kept seeing again and again that the biggest bottleneck that is preventing this industry from commercializing is the cost of production—specifically, the cost of the growth media.

The cost of growth media takes up more than 80% of production costs right now, and current solutions are more tailored to pharmaceutical products. There isn’t a solution that not only uses animal-free components but is able to reach the performance scale and cost requirements of the cultivated meat industry.

What is different about how Multus Media creates growth nutrients?

Most media contain serum derived from animal blood, which is used in biomedical research or biopharmaceutical production to grow mammalian cells. Serum contains a concoction of proteins and salts and other nutrients that mimic the growth environment, and in that sense, it is very good.

The downside of serum is that it is an unethical byproduct of the livestock industry. It’s not very scalable and also offers batch-to-batch variability, which isn’t good when you’re trying to produce a consistent product at scale. 

What we’re doing is taking these components that exist within animal serum and producing them without animals.

What we’re doing is taking these components that exist within animal serum and producing them without animals. We use yeast as a production system, again similar to how beer is brewed, but our yeast produce specific proteins. We then combine the proteins and other factors into formulations that make it a similar growth-promoting substance, but in a way that can be scaled and doesn’t use animal components.

Conventional serum-free media that exists is designed for a very specific use case using highly purified individual ingredients. This makes existing media both not useful for looking at a number of cell types and also very expensive.

What is your first product and what does it do?

We’re initially creating a universal serum for mammalian cells, Proliferum M. Not only will this benefit bovine, but also sheep or porcine cells as well. We can take a step further and look specifically at either individual cell lines or a group of cell lines that a cultivated meat company may be using, and so tailor our media for this specific use case.

We’re optimizing formulation today to give high performance across a number of different variants within a million cells, as well as low cost. 

Our products after that will be expanded into products that support chicken and duck as well. Then, also different types of seafood. We’re looking toward developing products for those different types and seeing what we can do to innovate novel proteins.

What is novel about the Multus Media approach?

We’re working in an area that hasn’t been researched much in the biomedical sphere: the ability to identify the key components for cultured meat and to bring these components in a way that is a real solution.

What we’re doing with our protein engineering is taking these natural proteins and changing a few amino acids within a sequence to enhance their performance characteristics. This will benefit the industry by effectively increasing the performance of the growth media, which will reduce the amount (and expense!) of growth factor components that you need. We’re excited to showcase the performance of our medium at Demo Day!

What is your hope for the future of Multus Media and the cultivated meat industry?

In 5 years, I hope that cultivated meat has really started to make an impact on the traditional meat industry and is available to mass, mass amounts of people. By starting early, we hope Multus Media is in a position where we can service the whole industry and start increasing scale. We’ll be looking at our production of products across the line, replacing for different parts of the production process. The initial stem cells may need different serum than cells differentiated into muscles or connective tissue, but all products will need to allow the whole industry to commercialize at a profitable price point. 

Learn more about Multus Media and all of IndieBio New York Class 1 companies at Demo Day.

Halomine: Making Every Surface an Antimicrobial Surface

Halomine is a company revolutionizing the way we disinfect surfaces. We asked Halomine CEO, Ted Eveleth, to tell us about the first product, Halofilm. 

Watch and read an abbreviated version of the conversation below.

What is your first product, Halofilm, and what does it do?

Halofilm is a very versatile product that allows you to turn almost any surface into an antimicrobial surface. It puts a semipermanent film down on a surface that sticks to both the surface and the chlorine. So in your normal habits of cleaning and disinfecting when you’re using a chlorinated product, the chlorine will last on a surface longer than normal.

Normally, chlorine and almost any active ingredient disappears fairly quickly. What we do is make it stick to the surface to provide continuous protection against pathogens, turning that surface into a continuous pathogen-killing machine, essentially.

How does Halofilm work?

There are 2 molecules required to make Halofilm work. One monomer sticks to the surface; it’s like an adhesive. This is a bio-inspired adhesive derived from muscles; it’s what muscles use to stick to almost anything in an aquatic environment. 

The other is an n-halamine (where we get our name), which is a molecule that interacts with chlorine. Normally, chlorine disappears from the surface. An n-halamine holds chlorine in a covalent bond until pathogens come along, and the chlorine then has a preference for the pathogen, where it kills the pathogen.

Where are major opportunities to use Halofilm?

There are a lot of application spaces: one important space is a hospital. We don’t want to cut back on disinfecting or sanitizing practices in a hospital; what we’re looking to do is to cut back hospital-acquired infections. Halofilm is something that would be used in addition to bleach-containing cleaning agents currently being used. The hope is that it could prevent either hospital-acquired infections or, more relevant these days, is reduce the COVID-19 spread.

Pretty much everything being used in the hospital right now is temporary. It seems very normal to us, but essentially it’s like mowing your lawn. You mow your lawn, it’s the right height. You let it grow for a while, you mow again. In between, the grass gets longer than you might want it. It’s the same with disinfecting: it’s a liquid that kills everything but between treatments, the disinfectant is gone. That provides pathogens the opportunity to land upon those surfaces and take hold, and to be transmitted between people that touch those surfaces. We’re essentially trying to continuously mow the lawn to keep it at the same height and turn periodic disinfection into continuous disinfection.

We’re looking at a lot of institutional uses, ranging from mass transit, cruise ships, hospitals, jails, schools, and office buildings. We originally started thinking we’d go after food processing, packaging and prep to prevent mold as well.

What types of microorganisms is Halofilm effective against?

We have an enormous amount of data on bacteria. We have a recently approved NSF grant that they turned around in record time for the NSF so that we can extend our studies to viruses.

We have done some testing to show that we can deter mold for 30 days. Essentially, once you have a film of chlorine on that surface, it will prevent anything from growing on it or taking over or creating a biofilm.

How safe are HaloFilm and chlorine-coated surfaces?

HaloFilm is extremely safe; we’re only keeping the same amount of chlorine on a surface as you would find in a pool. In fact, we can use the same dipstick to test for chlorine on a surface as you can use in a pool to measure the amount of chlorine. It doesn’t take much chlorine to be effective because it’s so potent against pathogens. It’s very hard to get the chlorine off the surface and you’d have to come into intimate contact with it. When you touch the surface, you’re not having intimate contact because the surface is rough and the finger has fingerprints, creating gaps in contact.

If you went to look microscopically at almost any surface, it would look more like a mountain range than a flat piece of glass. The polymer that makes up HaloFilm actually gets down into these crevices and holds a smaller amount of chlorine where those pathogens will go to hide, which is why it is so effective and yet safe. We’re covering the valleys in chlorine that your finger could never touch but that tiny pathogens can hide in.

Learn more about Halomine and all of IndieBio New York Class 1 companies at Demo Day.

Allied Microbiota: Using Natural Microbes to Eliminate Toxic Waste

Allied Microbiota is a company using bacteria that literally eat pollution for lunch to clean contaminated soils and turn brownfields into green fields. We spoke with CEO Lauralynn Kourtz about the discovery of the Allied Microbiota strain, ThermO+™.

Watch and read an abbreviated version of the conversation below.

What compounds are in contaminated soils and how did they get there?

Many toxic compounds are the results of industrial processes. For example, a chemical plant or electrical plant may produce residues; these compounds would be really difficult ones, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) or petroleum-based compounds like polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). They can persist for decades, up to hundreds of years; these compounds have been designed to be really incredibly stable and persist a long time.

How does Allied Microbiota use its ThermO+™ strain to clean contaminated soils?

ThermO+™ is a pretty amazing microbe. It’s a natural microbe, yet it has the ability to break down really tough compounds like PAHs and PCBs. ThermO+™ effectively eats these compounds for lunch; it will take a compound, break the carbon-carbon bonds, and then use that compound to make a building block for cells to grow. The only byproducts are water, CO2, and that’s about it. 

ThermO+™ is a natural microbe, but it can degrade these compounds that have been made by man. It was discovered by my co-founder, Ray Sambrotto, who scoured the globe while looking for solutions to these contamination problems. He discovered ThermO+™ and developed ways that we can grow it, make larger amounts of it, so that we can then deliver it to remove these contaminants.

To decontaminate soils, we add ThermO+™, provide it with the necessary ingredients it needs to live—heat, oxygen, and nutrients—and then it breaks down the contaminants. And ThermO+™ really loves heat; as soon as you bring the temperature down to normal temperatures, it won’t grow and the natural microbes in the soil will outcompete ThermO+™.

Working with a commercial partner, we’ve shown we can treat soil on the ton scale in ex situ soil very, very rapidly.

How is contaminated soil treated?

There are 2 ways to treat contaminated soil. One is ex situ, where someone actually comes and takes the soil away back to a facility where it can be decontaminated using various processes. In situ soil treatment is directly on the site of contamination. 

These soils can be treated using various processes, one of which is thermal treatment: incinerating it to remove the contaminants. You have to heat it up to about 400 degrees Celsius; that will remove some of the contaminants and other techniques such as oxidation will oxidize the contaminants into something less harmful. Probably the most effective solution is incineration, where you burn dirt at 1800 degrees. That takes a lot of energy and requires you to dig up the soil, chuck it in an incinerator, and create significant greenhouse gas emissions. ThermO+™ is not only much more sustainable, it’s much less costly.

What opportunities exist to treat contaminated soils?

There are over 450,000 Brownfield sites in the U.S and over 1300 Superfund sites; these are EPA-designated toxic sites. Together, they contain about 100 billion tons of toxic soil—enough to cover New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania one-foot deep with soil that is toxic to you and me.

I previously worked across the street from a contaminated site in Boston. It was empty for decades, which is unheard of in Boston. It was considered worthless, because it was toxic. When it was cleaned up, the Genzyme Center was built, and today it’s worth over half a billion dollars and thousands of people work there. 

A lot of the Superfund sites are in urban areas, the results of industrial processes which powered the creation of these towns; many of these sites are within the hearts of cities.

What does the future look like for Allied Microbiota?

I hope Allied Microbiota and ThermO+™ become the go-to solution to clean up the soil contaminants and air and water contaminants, and that as we scale, the technology will become much more accessible to people. Right now, people and developers and companies and towns decide based on financial factors that they can’t afford to clean up a site, and it stays vacant. As the technology grows, it will become accessible so that those decisions are shifted to yes, they can clean this up and it can become a productive area of town.

Learn more about Allied Microbiota and all of IndieBio New York Class 1 companies at Demo Day.

Introducing IndieBio San Francisco Class 10 and New York Class 1

IndieBio – now operating out of both San Francisco and New York – is proud to announce our new batches of startups. This is New York’s first batch, and San Francisco’s tenth. Though we are running the program virtually for now, all of the startups have secured access to lab and hardware space as needed. The challenge has only increased our focus to make sure these startups’ potentials are not compromised. The familiar feel of communal support and trust is bringing us all together. The transformation from scientists to entrepreneurs has begun and will continue. 

Apply to be a part of the next IndieBio class

Introducing IndieBio SF Class 10

IndieBio SF Batch 10 logos



Biomanufacturing through fermentation is becoming a huge industry, driving growth in foods, materials, fuels, biochemicals, and pharma. One of its biggest challenges is that when microbial factories are maximized for output, the stress causes genetic drift – these are known as “escape mutations.” The microbes’ yield falls, then collapses. Production has to be restarted, and days are lost. First reported in Nature Chemical Biology, Asimica has a novel way to bring stem-like properties to microbes, so that factory cells are continuously refreshed by younger, unmutated microbes. Asimica is selectively choosing fermentation partners to prove their impact.

Advanced Microbubbles


Getting drugs through the tumor barrier and across the blood brain barrier is a well-known, major challenge for medicine. Advanced Microbubbles uses tiny uniform bubbles, which they agitate with ultrasound at the site of a tumor, to open up the barriers so drugs can enter locally. Their bubbles can be delivered alongside the desired drug, or conjugated to many drugs.



Carbix turns our built urban world into sinks for CO2. Their novel bioreactor takes enriched CO2 from power and cement plants and in just hours converts it into cement and aggregates for the $900 billion construction industry, and home and yard goods for consumers looking to support the environment with their purchasing power. This technology enables sequestered CO2 to go into long term storage and high-value goods rather than being injected underground. Carbix can sell state and federal carbon credits as a result of their impact on industrial emissions.



As people age, their skin stops producing natural moisturizers like hyaluronic acid and ceramides. These tighten the skin, prevent age spots, and retain moisture. Synthetic and animal-based versions are the most common additives to cosmetic products. Cybele has an alternative, natural approach. Their products harness the skin biome, causing it to express these same highly-desired moisturizers, in much higher and efficacious quantities. Beyond moisturizers, they can express natural scents, natural insect repellants, and many more.

Ivy Natal


Ivy Natal is developing a novel process to create healthy human egg cells from skin cells, giving women the confidence in their ability to choose whether and when to have a child. Many fertility patients cannot have children except through the use of donor eggs. This can be due to surgery, chemotherapy, maternal age, or genetic conditions. Ivy Natal aims to enable these parents to have genetic children for the first time.



Khepra is building reactors to harness the stored chemical energy of our common waste streams, such as plastics and biomass. Their reactor uses frictive heating, cavitation, and acoustic pressure to break the chemical bonds in waste with zero extraction. This releases renewable chemicals and fuels. Ultimately they aim to create a two-way market for wastes and renewables. They’ll also partner with wind and solar energy providers to turn excess daytime energy – currently curtailed – into revenue.

Kraken Sense


Food and water contamination causes $77 billion in annual economic loss, just in the U.S. Recalls are not only expensive, they inflict real damage to brands’ reputation and scare consumers off entire product sectors. Kraken Sense is bringing real-time testing, with results in two minutes, to automated food and water systems, everywhere from the farms to kitchens. They are making an in-line autonomous device with refillable, single-use cartridges that employ carbon nanotubes magnetized with strain-specific antibodies to measure the concentration of pathogens, not just their presence. The safety of our food system has never been more paramount.



The market size of recombinant proteins today is $119 billion. But it’s expected to reach $400 billion just by 2025. To get there, a better approach to innovation is needed. Today, to produce any sort of custom recombinant protein, it takes weeks. This dramatically slows down scientists’ ability to test, iterate, and improve. Liberum’s affordable, benchtop device will cut that time down to a few hours. Scientists will love the control this gives them over their work. Liberum strongly believes that as custom proteins get as easy as pushing a button, the current $18 billion market for custom proteins will take a larger share of the overall market.



In a research study, Microgenesis began working with 40 fertility clinics, treating 287 women who had failed all attempts to get pregnant, including at least four expensive IVF treatments. These patients were beyond hope. With Microgenesis’ method of diagnosis and natural treatment, 75% of the women got pregnant. Microgenesis uses microRNA signatures, on swabs from both the gut and fertility biome, to diagnose dysbiosis and treat patients with neutraceuticals and diet-change. They intend to expand through fertility clinics, as well as cultivate a direct-to-consumer brand for women just beginning the journey.



The state of the art in row crops is to reject agrochemicals and employ soil rhizobacteria that support plant growth – known as “PGPRs.” Reazent does it one better. Reazent loads PGPRs into a natural carrier to treat soil, achieving 5x improvement. By improving the plant’s immune system, the crops can also forego pesticides. Reazent can work with up to 116 PGPR strains. Having started in soybeans and peppers, Reazent is now expanding to many crops, testing through both their own trials this summer and with partners.



According to the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, silk has by far the worst environmental impact of any fabric. Innovations over the last century have been few and far between. Spintex has invented an entirely new, scalable method of making silk, inspired by how spiders (rather than silkworms) spin silk. It uses 1000x less energy than plastic fiber formation, and cuts silk emission by half. Spintex matches the material properties of premium silks, with no compromise on look and feel. Already working with several major brands, Spintex will also tune their fibers to improve performance, approaching the rarified properties of spider silk.


Introducing IndieBio NY Class 1:

IndieBio NY is grateful for support from the Partnership for New York City and Empire State Development.

Allied Microbiota


Industrial activity has produced 100 billion tons of contaminated soil in the United States, endangering both human and environmental health. Less than 0.1% of this soil is decontaminated because current technologies don’t work or are too expensive. 

Allied Microbiota’s novel ThermO+ process uses natural processes to destroy toxic organic soil contaminants, including petroleum waste products and chlorinated substances. The process remediates soil in weeks instead of years and is a low-cost method to convert toxic soil to reusable soil.



Originally developed for human medicine, nanocapsules are tiny molecular transporters that can deliver nutrients, drugs, or natural products to make dramatic improvements in animal health and sustainability. 

On track to outpace capture fisheries by 2030, aquaculture is growing by 15% per year. Yet this growth comes at great cost: many farmed animals die due to overcrowded facilities and disease (in some sub-sectors amounting to 50%), while the environment is polluted with additives and animal waste. 

BioFeyn’s solution is transportable, scalable across species, and integrates into existing supply chains to benefit both people and planet.



Single-cell sequencing technologies present a huge opportunity for rapid drug target identification, but data analyses currently require too much time and too many resources for widespread adoption by research teams. Researchers spend 30-fold the amount of time on data analytics as in the wet-lab, which limits discovery to 1-2 drug targets per year. 

The Biomage single-cell platform increases drug target discovery 30-fold at a fraction of the cost, allowing widespread application of cutting-edge sequencing technologies.



50% of women and 12% of men suffer from urinary tract infections (UTIs) during their lifetime. Current UTI treatments present problems that include low efficacy, unwanted side effects, and accelerated development of antibiotic-resistant infections. Brightcure is solving the problem of poor treatment options for patients with recurrent UTIs by harnessing healthy, natural bacterial solutions to reduce the overuse of antibiotics. 

Cayuga Biotech


Following traumatic injury, the rate of death increases 1% for every 3 minutes a patient continues to bleed. The World Health Organization recognizes that bleeding is a global health threat. Genetic diseases and side effects of prescription drugs (such as anticoagulants) can further predispose individuals to major bleeding events.

Cayuga’s injectable clotting drug targets the site of injury to safely accelerate clot formation and save lives without the risk of thrombosis carried by currently available drugs.



Bacteria and viruses move easily surface-to-surface and person-to-person. Surface-associated microorganisms cause one of every three hospital-acquired infections and contribute to COVID-19 transmission.

HaloFilm is a companion product to chlorinated disinfectants that extends the life of chlorine on a surface, providing extended and continuous protection against bacteria and virus transmission, turning every surface into an antimicrobial surface.

Multus Media


Cultivated meat is a sustainable way of producing meat, without the need to kill animals. However, cultivated meat production is very expensive, a product of the animal-based nutrients required for its cultivation: these nutrients currently comprise more than 80% of production costs.

Multus Media is developing tailored, inexpensive nutrients to make cultivated meat completely animal-free and affordable for everyone.



Humans have generated more than 9 billion tons of plastic, and 79% of this has ended up in landfills. Current methodologies are unable to efficiently recycle some of the most commonly produced plastics.

Scindo is creating a novel biological platform for low-energy, green and economical recycling that turns low-value waste products into high-value compounds, creating a viable alternative to landfills.

SMT Labs


Mosquitoes are the most dangerous animal on earth. Mosquito-borne diseases like Dengue, Zika, yellow fever, West Nile fever, and Malaria infect hundreds of millions of people a year. Climate change is causing mosquitoes to spread rapidly, endangering millions more. 

SMT Labs is developing an affordable and scalable mosquito birth control to control the mosquito population and mosquito-borne disease.

Introducing IndieBio New York

The large, systemic problems facing humanity have never been clearer, nor has the need for innovative biotech solutions for these problems. The new IndieBio New York program, launching May 2020, doubles the number of companies building solutions to these problems.

Like the flagship San Francisco program, the companies accelerated in IndieBio New York will address both human and planetary health needs. The IndieBio mission to find startups whose technologies address these problems feels more urgent than ever. The new IndieBio program addresses these problems by providing early-stage biotech startups with three major areas of support as they grow their company:

  • A dedicated team.
  • Research facilities.
  • Mentorship and community.

Meet the IndieBio New York Team

The new IndieBio New York team is excited to welcome the inaugural cohort in May.

Partner, Stephen Chambers, Ph.D

Founding Scientist at Vertex Pharmaceuticals and co-Founder of Abpro Therapeutics.
Former CEO of SynbiCITE, the Innovation and Knowledge Center for Synthetic Biology in the United Kingdom.
Co-Founder of Bio-Start, the United Kingdom’s first life sciences accelerator.

“Working with founders of very early-stage companies, where advising and mentoring and relationship building really affect the life or death of a company, is some of the most rewarding work I’ve done. I look forward to helping founders in our teams move the needle and continue to grow.”

Partner, Rodrigo Mallo Leiva

Founder of 4 companies including a successful exit.
Angel investor.
Managing Director of RebelBio.

Adjunct Partner, Michael Aberman, M.D., M.B.A.

Former President and CEO at Quentis Therapeutics.
Former Senior Vice President of Investor Relations and Strategy at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.
Executive in Residence at Columbia Technology Ventures.

“IndieBio is known for its broad portfolio of companies across all life sciences disciplines. I’m excited to work with our IndieBio cohorts to develop the next wave of life-changing technologies.”

Communications Director, Julie Wolf, Ph.D.

Former Science Communications for the American Society for Microbiology.
Instructor at the community biology lab Genspace.
Co-Founder of Brooklyn Bio Inc.

“Every founder is not only an advocate for their company, but an advocate for a better future and an advocate for science. We hope that each founder in our program learns to inspire others within the biotech community and beyond.”

Program Manager, Alex Hall-Daniels

Previous Account Executive at Edelman London.
Former Program Associate at RebelBio.

“Our portfolio companies strive to solve major world problems. Working with companies who make crops more drought-resistant, materials more sustainable, and disease vectors less prevalent helps build a better future for everyone.”

Senior Associate, Sheng Ge

Previous Analyst, Associate, and now Senior Associate at SOSV through nearly a decade with the firm.

“I’ve worked with deep tech companies across SOSV and am excited to apply my expertise to the new IndieBio program.”

Program Location

IndieBio New York will be run out of Rockefeller University for its first year, occupying the 16th floor of the Weiss Building. The fully outfitted lab provides researchers with wet lab space, conference rooms, and common spaces for community gathering.

Mentorship and Community

The IndieBio New York program gathers founders of seed-stage companies for a 4-month intensive program. The new program applies the same cornerstone tenets of the San Francisco program: mentorship and community.

Mentors play a vital role in guiding early-stage founders. Throughout the program, mentors share their wisdom through talks to the entire group and by holding office hours for more intimate conversations.

“Relationship building is at the heart of entrepreneurship,” says Managing Director and Partner Steve Chambers. “Knowing whom to approach, and when and how, helps build the strong foundation necessary for companies to flourish. Our mentors serve the founders by sharing relationship-building tips and by becoming a part of the founders’ networks themselves.” The mentor network is further broadened by alliances with the Empire State Development and the Partnership Fund for New York City.

Community also grounds the IndieBio program. Working side-by-side for 4 months, founders learn not only from their mentors but also from each other, forming a support network that endures long after the program ends.

The team, facilities, mentorship, and community are important—and so is program adaptability. The COVID-19 pandemic requires nimble decision making to ensure all 4 components are up to IndieBio standards. Both San Francisco and New York IndieBio teams are working hard to navigate this unprecedented event and innovate program content for the founder communities they serve.