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 will sit 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? 

Register today for the SOSV Climate Tech Summit to find out

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 Avalo.ai, Puna Bio, and Drip.ai 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 / register now), we’ll meet 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 Avalo.ai, 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 Drip.ai, 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, Drip.ai 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, will moderate 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? 

Register today for the SOSV Climate Tech Summit to find out

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.”