California Cultured Partners with Japanese Chocolate Giant Meiji for Cell-Based Chocolate Products

Chocolates made from California Cultured cell-cultivated cocoa. Source: California Cultured

California Cultured has entered a 10-year commercial partnership with Japanese chocolate giant Meiji, incorporating the company’s “Flavanol Cocoa Powder” into several packaged goods distributed by Meiji.

Dark chocolate is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions; it is second only to beef when it comes to the top GHG-emitting foods. And that’s on top of the chocolate industry’s long history of contributing to mass deforestation, diminishing cocoa tree numbers, and human rights abuses.

California Cultured has developed a sustainable solution. The company makes cocoa in fermentation tanks, a climate-resilient approach that also addresses deforestation and labor exploitation. This resulting products are not only attractive to consumers, but chocolate makers as well. Enter Japanese conglomerate Meiji, who realized the value in the sustainable supply chain solution that California Cultured provides.

“Meiji came to us because unpredictable weather patterns – including heavy rainfall – have disrupted cacao cultivation, leading to a consecutive year of supply shortages,” California Cultured’s head of strategy Steve Stearns told Green Queen. “This scarcity has driven futures prices to unprecedented levels, reflecting the strain on supply and demand dynamics within the chocolate industry.”

California Cultured is targeting products in the nutraceutical, chocolate, and better-for-you snacks markets with the Meiji deal, per Green Queen.

“Meiji’s collaboration with California Cultured involves the seamless integration of the startup’s cocoa powder, cultivated from cells rather than traditional cocoa beans, into an array of confectionery and wellness products tailored for both the US and Japanese markets,” explained Stearns. “This comprehensive product line encompasses chocolates, truffles, and wellness-enhancing chocolate products designed for consumer use,” he added.

As California Cultured is a cellular agriculture company, it is currently pursuing approval from food safety regulators across the globe, including a GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) designation from the FDA. The company also has some exciting products lined up; it expects to release Flavanol Cocoa Powder – a food that has been found to reduce the risk of major cardiovascular disease by 16% and cardiovascular deaths by 27% – in the country in late 2024.

RizLab’s CytoTracker provides highly accurate white blood cell count with single drop of blood

IndieBio’s RizLab has developed an ultra-compact, all-electronic cytometer capable of quantifying white blood cells and the key subtypes with just a prick of the finger—with 97% accuracy, as validated by the recent clinical trial results published in PLOS One.

RizLab’s CytoTracker can quantify important WBC parameters such as the total white blood cell count, the absolute neutrophil count, and the absolute lymphocyte count, along with the percentages. To date, the existing FDA-approved commercially available analyzers for white blood cell count analysis are expensive, bulky, and require professionals to use.

In collaboration with a clinical team at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Pediatric Clinical Research Center led by Dr. Tanaya Bhwomick and the Baylor College of Medicine Department of Emergency Medicine, the CytoTracker was successfully tested in trials by pitting the device in a head-to-head comparison with a lab benchtop hematology analyzer, a conventional blood testing technique.

Founded in 2018 by Mehdi Javanmard, RizLab Health is a spinoff of the Nano Bioelectronics Laboratory at Rutgers University.

“We set out to solve one of the holy grails of medicine, which is to analyze a tiny amount of a patient’s blood in a way to give guidance to clinicians and improve clinical outcomes,” Javanmard said. “We believe this will have a huge impact in infectious disease, oncology, and psychiatry.”

Javanmard added: “Others have made failed attempts to tackle this holy grail by aiming to identify dozens or even hundreds of biochemical constituents with a single drop of blood. Such attempts are fundamentally very difficult. As a result, we found it to be much more realistic to focus only on the white blood cells with the key sub-types as a start.”

Bio-based polymer maker ZymoChem nets $21M from Toyota, lululemon

ZymoChem (IndieBio 01) landed $21M from investors including Breakout Ventures, Toyota Ventures, lululemon, and SOSV. The company’s bio-based polymers have wide-ranging applications from textiles to automotive.

ZymoChem converts renewable feedstocks into a variety of high-performance, bio-based, biodegradable polymers with near-zero CO2 emissions. The proprietary fermentation process improves yields by up to 50% versus alternative processes creating a dramatic cost advantage.

“We’re upending the materials industry,” said Harshal Chokhawala, co-founder and CEO. “Our technology delivers sustainability without compromising performance, scale, and importantly economics. This unlock already catalyzed multiple partnerships with world-leading companies and we’re thrilled to expand our impact with our key stakeholders.”

This round comes after a recent $4M grant from the Department of Energy, which ZymoChem will leverage to launch its first high-performance material and advance its first partnered product to commercial scale.

IndieBio’s Lingrove nets $10M for carbon-negative wood alternative

Lingrove’s ekoa material. Source: Lingrove

As industries from automative to fashion continue to seek more sustainable materials, IndieBio alum Lingrove has developed a carbon-negative wood veneer alternative out of flax fiber and plant-based resins.

The resulting material, “ekoa, ” is “very high stiffness, durable, and resistant,” i.e. to touch, temperature and other materials (like stains and spills). Lingrove, which launched inhouse manufacturing of ekoa surfaces in late 2023, has secured millions in ekoa pre-orders. Its eco-veneers are currently being used in wall and cabinetry applications, as well as advanced materials testing for the automotive sector. The $10M Series B round was led by Lewis & Clark Agrifood and Diamond Edge Ventures, with participation from Bunge Ventures and SOSV.

Per Devin Coldeway at TechCrunch, “The company contends that not only is its material better for the environment and as good or better in terms of strength and so on, but that it can positively affect air quality indoors. Recycled plastic and other repurposed materials are a popular use for things like cabinetry and trim, but they often lack the look, hardness or other qualities desirable for such surfaces, and in some cases can offgas considerable amounts (that’s your “new car smell”).”

“We have a healthy-air, low-carbon, high-performing and beautiful product,” CEO Joe Luttwak told TechCrunch. “Using post industrial feedstock can, in some cases, be positive for the environment; however many of those byproducts are still emitting VOCs [volatile organic compounds] which are detrimental for indoor air quality, and they are not able to be made into high-performing materials.”

IndieBio’s BioFluff and TomTex secure funding rounds amid sustainable textile boom

BioFluff at the launch of Savian. Source: Stella McCartney

“‘Why is there no great alternative to regular animal or plastic furs?’ is the million-dollar question that led biochemist Martin Stübler to launch biomaterials company Biofluff,” wrote WWD, in its article on the plant-based fur alternative’s recent $2.5M seed round.

“It was important to us not to use plant material that’s in competition with a human food crop. We are taking advantage of the waste stream of [an] agricultural main product,” Stübler told WWD. “Our fiber is a naturally existing fiber that doesn’t have to be spun or extruded. There’s no plastic anywhere, mixed in or coating it.”

Available in rolls of 1.2 and 1.5 meters in width, the brand’s offering includes between six and eight references of fur-, shearling- and fleece-like fabrics. Naturally nutmeg brown, the material can be bleached to an ivory white or dyed using natural or mineral pigments. BioFluff also announced the launch of Savian, its flagship luxury materials brand, in partnership with Stella McCartney.

Sustainable materials have applications outside of luxury and fashion; more and more companies in the interior, automotive, and toy markets, among others, are desperate to get their hands on innovative biomaterials that are more sustainable—and often more cost-effective—than traditional animal-derived products.

As Wired reported earlier this year in a feature on TomTex, “The fashion and automotive industries are racing to discover the perfect animal-free leather to displace at least some of the almost $243 billion global market for leather. And what’s clear is the startup with the most affordable, durable, beautiful, biodegradable, and—this is the hard part—fossil-fuel-free material will win the spoils.”

TomTex leather wallet. Source: TomTex

Plant-based leather maker TômTex has since raised a $2.25 million seed round, led by Happiness Capital with SOSV, Parley for the Oceans, Earth Venture and MIH Capital participating. The company’s patent-pending technology uses 100% bio-based inputs including mushrooms, coffee grounds and seafood shell waste to create a non-woven, biodegradable and plastic-free leather alternative.

Per WWD, “It’s already a fashion industry fave, and has collaborated with Peter Do, Di Pesta and Maitrepierre at New York and Paris Fashion Weeks.”

Introducing IndieBio SF’s new office at 3rd St. in San Francisco’s Dogpatch

As you ride the elevator to the third floor of the American Industrial Center (AIC) at 3rd Street in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood, the smell of sweetly spiced bread permeates the otherwise industrial air. Once filled with warehousing and manufacturing companies, the sprawling AIC—often referred to as a skyscraper on its side—is now home to everything from world famous chocolatiers to design museums and tech startups and, as of October 2023, SOSV’s IndieBio. 

IndieBio, SOSV’s startup development program working with deep tech founders in planetary and human health, has set up shop on the third floor, sandwiched between bakeries and several innovative food brands (Wildtype, Black Sheep Foods). And it feels right at home—and not just because the north side of AIC was IndieBio’s first ever office space back in 2015. As the New York Times put it, “…the [AIC] complex has emerged as a hub of collaborative entrepreneurship and a breeding ground for new companies, notably ones in food and technology.” 

The new, spacious SF HQ includes 9000 sq ft of production space, including 3300 sq feet of BSL 1 & 2 labs, a 2500 sq ft chemistry lab, and a 2,000 sq ft food lab; plenty of collaborative office space (60 desks and 18 conference rooms & phone booths); and an event/gathering area. In fact, the entire space facilitates an excellent event experience, which we put to the test for our recent Batch 14 Demo Day. And, for the first time, IndieBio SF founders will have access to a chem lab, food lab, and a clean room. There’s also a full bar and two kitchens. 

“IndieBio was the first VC in the world to build a full wet lab directly in our offices. But we’ve grown far beyond biotech and we encourage startups in every market to reach out. We now have a full chem lab, food lab, and prototyping production room—so we will invest in companies no matter which domain of science their technology is anchored in.

SOSV GP and IndieBio SF Managing Director Po Bronson

The facilities are split into two large areas across the hall from each other. One side of windows looks out over the glistening San Francisco Bay; the other frames the city’s Potrero Hill neighborhood. The space is well connected to San Francisco’s heartlines: it’s perched near the 22nd St. Caltrain stop, and the T Third Street line, with stops mere minutes away, runs every ten minutes, 24 hours a day. UCSF sits just four blocks away. 

IndieBio SF Batch 14 Demo Day

While many great companies and technologies were born in the labs at Jessie Street, we’re excited for the opportunities at the new 3rd St. offices, nestled in a neighborhood buzzing with entrepreneurial spirit. There’s more space (both lab- and office-wise) to host new cohorts and alumni alike, and better lab capabilities and machinery (ICP-OES, GC-TOF, etc.).

It’s a very enterprising and industrial community. Beyond tons of venture-backed startups, there are also full-fledged, successfully operating companies all around us. Everyday our founders build their companies alongside other entrepreneurs who are busy serving customers and delivering products.  There’s a buzz of commerce infusing the air here, and we love it. Here in San Francisco, we make things.

Pae Wu, SOSV GP and IndieBio CTO

A quick refresher on SOSV’s IndieBio program: the journey begins with $525,000 and our intense 4-6 month program to help founders refine their product as well as develop go-to-market and fundraising strategies. But we continue to work and grow alongside our companies, investing meaningfully in every round—80% of our capital is deployed post-program. 

Over 200 companies have been born and built with IndieBio so far. They have raised more than $2.3 billion and have an aggregate valuation of $8.3 billion.

Are you next?

We’re always on the lookout for the next generation of founders with the potential to transform the future of human and planetary health—apply here.

Animal-free leather maker Gozen raises $3.3M

Balenciaga LUNAFORM™ Maxi Bathrobe Coat

IndieBio alum Gozen raised $3.3 million in seed funding round led by Happiness Capital, with participation from Accelr8, Astor Management, SOSV. The startup is working on a Turkey-based production facility with capacity of up to 1 million square feet.

At Paris Fashion Week earlier this year, Gozen partnered with Balenciaga to unveil LUNAFORM™, a lower-impact leather alternative. The animal and plastic-free textile is grown from fermented nanocellulose.

Unlike plant leathers—which are typically composed of a mixture of materials—LUNAFORM™ is created from a single process, enabling its tensile strength to surpass that of plant and mycelium-based materials. With a thickness starting from just 0.2 mm, it is stronger and finer than traditional animal leather and features a natural drape and softness that sets it apart from existing alternatives.

Ece Gozen, founder and CEO of GOZEN told TechCrunch in an interview: “I was super obsessed with science, so six years ago, I just quit my job and worked on creating the habitat for these microorganisms. We are using a fermentation transplantation system which creates the material in just 10 days. The formulation becomes solid, so we then harvest that. This is microbial cellulose, a different type of cellulose.”

Po Bronson, Managing Director of SOSV’s IndieBio, Gozen’s first investor, added in a statement: “There is a lot of competition now in animal free leather. But I believed that Gozen’s approach could surpass all others in both performance and economics.”

Gozen plans to disrupt not only fashion, but the automotive industry as well.

Can bio-economy unicorn Solugen decarbonize the chemical industry? Find out at the SOSV Climate Summit

The $4.7 trillion chemical industry accounts for about 4% of global GDP and 5% of carbon emissions. The industry is proving hard to decarbonize due to its use of carbon-intensive feedstock (e.g., petroleum) and high heat in production. Solugen, valued at over $2B, aims to deliver the green  solution. At the SOSV Climate Tech Summit (Sept 26-27 / free & virtual / register now), Solugen co-founder and CEO Dr. Gaurab Chakrabarti, MD, PhD sat down with Dr. John Cumbers of SynBioBeta, a synthetic biology innovation network, to discuss how bio startups can eliminate emissions.   

Solugen is part of the multitrillion-dollar bioeconomy, which gained momentum in September 2022 after President Joe Biden issued an executive order “…to advance biotechnology and biomanufacturing towards innovative solutions in health, climate change, energy, food security, agriculture, supply chain resilience, and national and economic security.” 

It’s a tall order from the White House but tailor-made  for companies like Solugen. The team has developed a carbon-negative molecule factory called a “Bioforge” that uses proprietary engineered enzymes to produce chemicals (it’s “…not your grandpa’s chemical plant,” as Solugen puts it). Solugen claims that it can synthesize 90% of the world’s chemicals using nothing but sugar, water, catalysts, and air (and renewable electricity)—with zero emissions and no wastewater. It also claims that over 90% of these feedstocks are converted to product, meaning Solugen minimizes yield losses that make traditional thermochemical and fermentation processes so expensive.

Currently, Solugen’s product line includes chemicals for plant nutrition, water treatment, concrete production, cleaning agents, skincare products, and, somewhat unexpectedly, oil and gas extraction. To date, Solugen has raised over $640M in funding. Its backers include Kennivik, Lowercarbon Capital, Refactor Capital, BlackRock, GIC, Temasek, Baillie Gifford, Founders Fund, and Fifty Years

How much scale will Solugen need to make a serious dent in emissions? Can they outcompete chemical manufacturers with bio-based substitutes? And how else might bioeconomy startups like Solugen help with decarbonization? 

Catch the full session—and all others from this year’s Summit—here.

Learn more about the Summit.

The Speakers

Dr. Gaurab Chakrabarti, MD, PhD photo

Dr. Gaurab Chakrabarti, MD, PhD

Dr. Gaurab Chakrabarti, MD, PhD is the co-founder and CEO of Solugen. As a physician-scientist, Gaurab took an oath to first do no harm—and for him, that goes beyond patients or medicine. So in 2016, he started Solugen to decarbonize the chemicals industry, one of the most damaging for people and the Earth. Gaurab believes in using biology in unconventional ways to solve incredibly complex problems and is building a world-class team to join him on the journey. Gaurab studied computational neuroscience as an undergraduate at Brown University and received his MD & PhD in cancer biology and enzymology at the University of Texas. He is an author or co-author on more than 20 peer-reviewed publications and patents, and he is a Forbes 30 Under 30 in Industry and Manufacturing.

Dr. John Cumbers photo

Dr. John Cumbers

Dr. John Cumbers is the founder and CEO of SynBioBeta, the leading community of innovators, investors, engineers, and thinkers who share a passion for using synthetic biology to build a better, more sustainable universe. He publishes the weekly SynBioBeta Digest, hosts the SynBioBeta Podcast, and wrote “What’s Your Biostrategy?”, the first book to anticipate how synthetic biology is going to disrupt virtually every industry in the world. John also founded BetaSpace, a space settlement innovation network and community of visionaries, technologists, and investors accelerating the industries needed to sustain human life here and off-planet. John has been involved with multiple startups, he’s an operating partner and investor at the hard tech investment fund Data Collective, and he’s a former bioengineer at NASA. John earned his PhD in Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry from Brown University and is originally from the UK.

SOSV Climate Summit: How, Puna Bio, and Plan aim to protect our food supply against climate change

Climate change threatens to undermine agriculture at a moment when food production needs to increase, and quickly. The UN estimates that 1.3 billion people were food insecure in 2022, with most living in areas of Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia that are especially vulnerable to climate change. To feed a global population of 9.7 billion in 2050 under volatile and more extreme weather conditions, production may need to increase more than 50%. Clearly, agriculture needs to adapt.

Can we grow more food despite more extreme temperatures, floods, wildfires, droughts, and heat-loving pests? At the SOSV Climate Tech Summit (Sept 26-27 / free & virtual), we met pioneers in adaptive agriculture who believe it can be done.

Crops are adapted to a particular range of temperatures, sun exposure, humidity, and soil microorganisms, but global warming is changing those conditions faster than plants can adapt naturally. Climate researchers predict that the probability of crop failures in global bread baskets—responsible for almost half the world’s calories—will be 3.5 times higher by 2030, and 25 times higher by 2050. 

However, agriculture already accounts for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of global freshwater withdrawals. Hence, the predicament: how do we adapt agriculture to a warming climate while feeding another 1.7 billion people—without depleting freshwater resources, clearing more forests, burning more fossil fuels, or increasing prices? Three startups have potential answers.

Brendan Collins is co-founder and CEO of, a Durham, NC-based startup using machine learning and AI to design climate-resilient crops. Their key innovation is Gene Discovery by Informationless Perturbation (GDIP), which simulates changes in plant genomes. Basically, it enables researchers to find and breed desirable traits—like heat and drought resistance—in two to three years instead of the usual 15. A graduate of IndieBio (SOSV’s biotech startup program), Avalo has raised $3M in funding from Better Ventures, Giant Ventures, At One Ventures, Climate Capital, David Rowan, and SOSV

Franco Martínez Levis is co-founder and CEO of Puna Bio, which uses extremophiles (microbes that thrive in extreme conditions) to help crops adapt to the dry, salty, degraded soils of the near future. The Buenos Aires-based startup has sourced extremophiles that first emerged 3.5 billion years ago in La Puna, the highest and driest desert on Earth, to create biofertilizers that increase crop yields and protect crops from extreme weather without the need for carbon-intensive chemicals. Also an IndieBio grad, Puna Bio has raised $3.7M in funding from investors that include At One Ventures, Builders VC, SP Ventures, Air Capital, SOSV, GLOCAL, and Grid Exponential.

Dr. Ramadan Borayek is CTO and co-founder of, developer of a hydropanel that harvests water from thin air, at utility scale. The technology is passive, meaning it doesn’t require energy inputs, and it yields water that is up to five times cheaper than tap water, Drip claims. Drip could facilitate growth in food production by preserving scarce groundwater, reducing irrigation costs, and mitigating droughts. Based in Singapore, completed HAX (SOSV’s hard tech program) and has raised seed financing from SOSV and Entrepreneur First.   

Marina Schmidt, Founder and Editor in Chief of the impact media outlet Red to Green Solutions and host of the “Red to Green” food tech podcast, moderated the panel.

With heatwaves threatening corn yields in Texas, tomatoes in Spain and India, and peaches in Georgia, adaptive agriculture is a pressing climate technology. Can it provide food security? 

Watch the discussion below to find out—and tune into the rest of the sessions here.

Learn more about the Summit.

The Speakers

Brendan Collins photo

Brendan Collins

Brendan Collins is the Co-Founder and CEO of Avalo. He is a cell biologist, programmer, and lover of nature. Prior to founding Avalo, Brendan co-founded and worked as a software engineer at two early-stage startups. He also played a key role in developing cell-based therapies for treating traumatic spinal cord injuries during his tenure at University College London. Brendan holds a BS from the University of Notre Dame and an MS from University College London.

Franco Martinez Levis photo

Franco Martinez Levis

Franco Martinez Levis holds a degree in Economics from Universidad Torcuato Di Tella and an MBA/MA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Having worked for McKinsey & Company in Operations and Digital implementations across Argentina, Chile, Brasil, and Perú, he has always focused on the food value chain. With prior founder experience as the CEO of a restaurant software startup, he founded Puna Bio after meeting his three scientific co-founders in the midst of the pandemic. Today, he leads a team tackling one of humanity’s most pressing challenges: ensuring food security and building resilience in agriculture.

Dr. Ramadan Borayek photo

Dr. Ramadan Borayek

Dr. Ramadan Borayek earned his PhD in Material Science from National University of Singapore. Based on his PhD work, he submitted two US patents regarding smart materials for environmental and energy applications, and in November 2021, he co-founded Drip.AI Pte Ltd in Singapore to commercialize them. Drip.AI produces water out of the thin air powered by the sun. It can harvest water anywhere, including in locations with low humidity levels. Drip.AI’s solution is also scalable to industry levels with prices comparable to worldwide water prices. The company aims to address water scarcity, which is likely to worsen as the climate warms.

Marina Schmidt photo

Marina Schmidt

Marina Schmidt is the Founder and Editor in Chief of the impact media outlet Red to Green Solutions. Red to Green hosts the most in-depth podcast on food tech and sustainability, covering each topic in 12 episodes. It is ranked in the 5% most shared and followed globally with a loyal listenership spanning over 160 countries. Before founding Red to Green Marina worked as a Lead Venture Developer for Creative Dock, the world’s largest independent corporate venture builder. She also headed the Fightback Movement, a European collaboration platform focused on health & climate, working closely with the World Economic Forum. She currently lives in lovely Lisbon.

SOSV Founder Sean O’Sullivan tells Bloomberg what’s next in climate tech

SOSV Founder & Managing General Partner Sean O’Sullivan

SOSV Founder & Managing General Partner Sean O’Sullivan recently sat down with Bloomberg to discuss his storied career in climate tech and share his vision for the future of the all-important category.

O’Sullivan has “quietly been one of the leading investors in the technology that could redefine what we eat, what we wear, how we get around and — most importantly — how we meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

He explained SOSV’s view that today’s climate tech category goes beyond decarbonization—it encompasses the reinvention of all different means of production. And according to O’Sullivan, “backing climate tech companies is more than good for the planet—it’s also good for investors.”

“Up until now, our gross internal rate of return at SOSV for climate tech companies has outperformed our non climate tech companies,” he told Bloomberg. “It is in the range of around 50% over the course of eight years from 2015 to 2022. It’s in the top decile of venture capital returns.”

Climate and health portfolio updates headline SOSV’s Annual General Meeting in NYC

“There is a day coming where everyone on the planet will be touched by SOSV companies, every day,” SOSV Managing General Partner Sean O’Sullivan said in his opening remarks at the top of SOSV’s 2023 Annual General Meeting in New York City on June 1. “It’ll be in the clothes they wear, the food they eat, the energy that powers their day, and the decarbonized atmosphere that our companies produce for a more sustainable planet.”

On that exciting note, SOSV convened the annual gathering of SOSV limited partners at our new 7 Penn Plaza office. SOSV general partners Sean O’Sullivan and Stephen McCann provided updates on SOSV’s funds. HAX managing director Duncan Turner and IndieBio managing directors Po Bronson and Stephen Chambers walked through their programs and also delved into exciting developments in SOSV’s climate and health portfolios. 

Two SOSV portfolio founders also took the stage: Unspun’s Kevin Martin (HAX) discussed clothing maker’s recent $14M Series A and Vega, Unspun’s revolutionary new 3D weaving technology, and Ten63 Therapeutics’ Marcel Frenkel (IndieBio) addressed the firm’s BEYOND platform, which “combines physics and AI in hyper-efficient search algorithms” to push the boundaries of computational drug discovery.

UPSIDE Foods wins regulatory approval to sell lab-grown meat in the US

UPSIDE Foods’ cell-cultivated chicken.

UPSIDE Foods has secured the trifecta of regulatory approvals needed to take its cell-cultivated chicken commercial.

  • “No Questions” Letter from FDA — November 2022
    • After rigorous evaluation of UPSIDE’s products and processes, the FDA issued a “No Questions” Letter (NQL).
  • USDA Label Approval — June 2023
    • UPSIDE received a USDA “label approval,” showing that it demonstrated full compliance with all pre-market requirements for labeling. This includes the label, the name of the product, ingredient statement, and handling instructions, all of which were and determined by the USDA to be truthful and not misleading.
  • USDA Grant of Inspection (GOI) — June 2023
    • Receiving a GOI from USDA means that UPSIDE has met the applicable federal requirements and standards to operate as a meat establishment and is allowed to process, package, and sell its cultivated chicken in the United States under the inspection of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

With clearance to begin commercial production, UPSIDE can continue scaling its facilities and supply chains. Per the company, UPSIDE’s cultivated chicken will soon be available to the public for the first time at San Francisco’s Bar Crenn, prepared by 3-Michelin Star chef Dominique Crenn. Chef Crenn is a friend and partner of UPSIDE’s and a long-time champion of sustainable food systems.

Check out media coverage across Bloomberg, MIT Tech ReviewTechCrunch, and more.

Prime Roots raises $30M to bring its fungi-based deli meats to deli counters across the US

Prime Roots’ Koji-Ham. Source: Prime Roots

Prime Roots, which makes deli-style plant-based meats from koji mycelium, announced $30 million in Series B funding to bring its first-of-its-kind Koji-Meat to more deli counters and grocery shelves across the U.S.

Prime Roots makes whole cut, plant-based using koji mycelium. At a microscopic level, koji mycelium mimics the texture of meat—and its umami mouthfeel—providing consumers with a nearly perfect replication of the meat-eating experience, even down to ordering and slicing at the local deli counters where other deli meats are served. Consumers are convinced: partners report that Prime Roots’ products consistently sell out before lunch and sales are pacing at 5-10 times higher than other plant-based alternatives.

Prime Roots’ Koji-Meats are made by putting koji through a simple fermentation process, taking the koji in its whole and purest form and mixing it with a few other plant and fungi-derived ingredients to make meats that taste, feel, and look just like the “conventional” animal product. Koji Deli-Meats include Koji-Turkey (Classic Smoked, Cracked Pepper, and Golden Roast) and Koji-Ham (Classic Smoked, Black Forest, and Sugar Shack Maple), and Koji-Bacon.The Koji-Charcuterie line includes pepperoni, salami, pate (harvest and black truffle), and foie gras. All Koji-Meats are non-GMO and free of soy, cholesterol, nitrates, hormones and antibiotics.

The market for deli meats is huge: more than half of Americans eat a deli sandwich at least once a day. Other plant-based deli meats struggle to replicate the taste and texture of animal meat, and often contain unhealthy ingredients, such as soy and nitrates. Animal-based options also contain unhealthy additives like nitrates, hormones, and antibiotics, as well as the burden of animal slaughter and animal agriculture’s massive contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

It only takes two to three days to grow koji, which also produces nearly zero byproducts. In fact, Prime Roots’ end-to-end process from protein to product takes less than a week and is 90% to 99% more efficient and less wasteful than conventional meat in terms of land use, water use, and CO2 emissions, as reported in a Boundless Impact life-cycle assessment of the process.

In a kg to kg comparison of Prime Roots bacon to pork bacon, the assessment found that Prime Roots:
-Avoids 9kg of CO2 emissions per kg, or the equivalent of driving 22 miles in a passenger car
-Uses 92% less water (2 olympic swimming pools worth) than animal meat
-Registers 91% lower land impact than animal meat

“We’re tackling a whole new category that no one in plant-based has gone to,” founder Kimberlie Le told Forbes. “We’re not just taking plant-based proteins off the shelf and mixing them together. We are actually innovating in the deli, which is a very traditional category, but we’re maintaining that tradition in the techniques and flavors.”

Ten63 raises $15.9M to drug the “undruggable” with generative AI

Ten63 CEO Marcel Frenkel and chairman Clay Thorp

Ten63 Therapeutics raised $15.9 million in Series A funding to advance and expand its internal pipeline of first-in-class small molecules inhibiting high-impact, but thus far undruggable, cancer targets.

Despite advances in drug discovery, 80% of the proteins in the human body remain evasive, and some of these so-called “undruggable” proteins are believed to be major oncogenes (cancer-driving proteins). Ten63 built BEYOND, a proprietary drug discovery engine that combines physics and AI in hyper-efficient search algorithms, to pursue validated biological targets that exceed the reach of conventional therapeutic research. BEYOND can look at 19,290,123 compounds per second—which is roughly equal to the number of compounds explored experimentally in the entire history of humanity.

Ten63’s lead program is aimed at Myc, a protein that is believed to drive up to 70% of all cancers. Co-founder and CEO Marcel Frenkel told Endpoints News that the fight against Myc is personal, as his mother died of pancreatic cancer.

“When she was diagnosed, the first thing we did was sequence her tumor. And sure enough, the usual suspects came back,” including Myc, he said. “And although we had a good blueprint of what happened and what was driving her cancer, unfortunately there was no chemistry against those proteins.”

In pursuit of a solution, Frenkel spun off Ten63 with co-founder Mark Hallen from research at Duke University. Ten63 has raised about $21.4 million total since its inception.

Shake Shack rolls out plant-based shakes made with NotCo’s AI-designed NotMilk

Non-Dairy Chocolate Custard and Non-Dairy Chocolate Shake are now full-time additions to Shake Shack’s nationwide menu. Source: Shake Shack

Shake Shack just expanded its dairy-free milkshakes and custards made in partnership with NotCo (IndieBio 05) to all 260 locations in the US.

NotCo’s AI “Giuseppe” analyzes the product structure of foods at the molecular level and then replicates it using only plant-based ingredients. Giuseppe has the ability to find matches in flavor, texture, nutrition and functionality, among other characteristics—read more about Giuseppe here.

Giuseppe helped create NotMilk, “a sustainable, plant-based beverage that tastes, cooks, and blends just like milk,” per Shake Shack’s Tuesday announcement.

Shake Shack has been partnering with NotCo since May 2022, when the company first introduced its dairy-free milkshakes and frozen custards at 10 select locations in the US. Now, the entirely plant-based Non-Dairy Chocolate Custard and Non-Dairy Chocolate Shake are full-time additions to Shake Shack’s nationwide menu.

SOSV GP & IndieBio CTO Pae Wu shares tips on how to turn research into a business

Source: TechCrunch

“It’s really important to understand the distinction between what it is to build a business, and what it is to build a research program.”

SOSV GP and IndieBio CTO Pae W recently took the stage with Brian Heater at TechCrunch Early Stage to share her insights on how to turn research into a business—and why potential founders should consider leaving the “safety” of the academic nest.

“There are some sectors where it can work very well to have members of your founding team who remain in academia,” Wu explained. “We see this all the time in traditional biotech and pharma. But in other types of situations, it can become, frankly, a drag on the company and problematic for the founders who are full time. This is a very tough conversation that we have quite frequently with some of our committed academics: your stake in this company isn’t really aligned with your time commitment.”

“The majority of the time, the academic founder will come in and out and provide their sage wisdom to the full-time founders who have committed their lives and risked everything for this company. It starts to create challenges in getting the company to move forward. It creates interpersonal challenges as well for the founding team, because you have to be a special kind of saint to say, ‘I’m working 100 hours a week, I don’t make any money, and my whole financial future rests on the success of this company. And this guy keeps coming in to tell me some random thing that he read on the Harvard Business Review.’”

Wu went on to urge “recovering academics” to make the jump: “I feel strongly that your best bet is that, when you’re ready to go full time, just do it. Cut the cord. Stop being paid by the university and truly become an employee of your own business because your mindset will completely change.”

Wu also shared three questions that “recovering academics” building startups should ask to ensure they’re on the right track:

Do you need VC funding?

“There are plenty of other funding streams out there. The distinction between VC funding and other non-dilutive, or less-dilutive funding, is—simply put—the speed at which you want to operate. VC money is really great if you want to sprint.”

Which milestones are most important?

“While you need to have the science and the data—that’s table stakes. The real value-inflecting milestone is showing the world that you’re building a real business, a real product, with a plan to sell to customers.”

Do you really know your customer?

“Get to know the key opinion leaders in your market, and how your product impacts their business. Get your hands dirty, work alongside the community, and smoke out what drives your industry.”

Windfall Bio secures $9M to put methane-eating microbes to work combatting climate change

A methane reading (60x higher than average) in a barn. Source: Windfall Bio

Methane is the second largest contributor to climate change, behind carbon dioxide. It’s responsible for about 30% of the global increase in temperature since the Industrial Revolution, according to the International Energy Agency.

Livestock like cows produce a lot of methane via burps and manure. Windfall Bio—which has created methane-eating enzymes that also make fertilizer—emerged from stealth with $9 million in funding to combat this issue. Now, farmers can transform methane from “dangerous waste” into a valuable resource, saving money and saving the planet.

Windfall Bio’s technology produces quantifiable results: “We measure methane into the compost pile, we measure methane coming out of the compost pile, we measure carbon and nitrogen left over in the compost pile,” Windfall founder Josh Silverman told CNBC. “There’s no modeling or uncertainty associated with it. It’s 100% quantifiable with the highest certainty of any type of climate impact that we do have today.”

The funding round was led by Mayfield, with participation from SOSV and Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures. Windfall Bio will start with livestock farms and later move to other source of methane emissions such as wastewater treatment facilities and landfills.

Solvay joins the Genesis Consortium to support IndieBio startups

Solvay Ventures, the venture capital fund of Solvay, announced that the fund has joined the Genesis Consortium to support startups in SOSV’s IndieBio startup development program, which holds a portfolio of early-stage, venture-backed companies innovating in planetary and human health.

The Genesis Consortium, founded by SOSV and Mayfield, is a global alliance of venture capital firms and corporations dedicated to supporting startups that leverage biotechnology to promote human and planetary health.

Over the years, Solvay Ventures has demonstrated interest in Indiebio’s graduate companies, which represent a growing number of early-stage ventures with ties to Solvay’s commitment to innovating in chemical biotechnology.

“We are thrilled to join the Genesis Consortium and SOSV’s IndieBio, which will reinforce our position in biotech and help us better serve our customers as we reinvent chemistry through biotechnology,” said Solvay CEO Ilham Kadri.

“On the journey to reshape the global economy for sustainability, it’s fantastic to have Solvay as a key partner,” said Sean O’Sullivan, founder and managing general partner at SOSV. “Using efficiencies only possible through biology, IndieBio startups are reinventing the world’s means of production of foods and materials.  It’s a great sign for the future that materials and chemistry companies with tens of billions in revenue, like Solvay, are joining side by side with IndieBio startups to create a healthier future.”