Applications for San Francisco (Batch 12) extended AGAIN through September 30th, 2021!

The environmental benefits of Perfect Day’s animal-free dairy products

Cows — and the methane they produce — are a major contributor to the overall greenhouse gas emissions of the dairy sector. Taking them out of the equation could be a net environmental positive.

Alternative methods that use fermentation to produce dairy proteins could significantly cut the environmental cost of milk, cheese and ice cream.

In a study released first to Axios, independent researchers tapped by Perfect Day found the company’s process produced more than 90% less greenhouse gases, required 20% to 60% less energy, and used more than 96% less water per kilogram of protein produced compared to conventional bovine dairy protein.

Inside Hermès, where MycoWorks mycelium leather will soon join the product line

Vanity Fair recently published a photo essay, “Inside the Hermès Workshop That Makes Its Iconic Bags,” that discusses the iconic designer’s plans to use IndieBio alum’s MycoWorks‘ “Fine Mycelium,” in an upcoming line of products. From Alexis Cheung’s piece:

“Despite this staunch adherence to tradition, Hermès will introduce a decidedly modern material this fall: mycelium leather. Developed in collaboration with the San Francisco-based biotech company MycoWorks, this “Fine Mycelium,” coined Sylvania by its creators, derives not from cattle but from mushrooms. Fournier insists that its quality and durability meet the same high standards of traditional leathers and that the material continues Hermès’s long legacy of innovation—it was, after all, Thierry’s grandson Émile-Maurice Hermès who introduced the zipper to handbags in 1922.

“We strongly believe that we should not oppose new technology with what we do with the hands and tradition,” says Fournier. “Both are compatible.” Plus, he adds, “It’s a fantastic opportunity for creation, to play with new materials.” (For now, this particular play is reserved for the Victoria handbag from the autumn/winter 2021 collection, constructed at a workshop of its own.)”

SOSV Climate Tech 100 Startups value grows by 44% in 5 months

On Earth Day, April 22, 2021, SOSV published its SOSV Climate Tech 100 list, a collection of the top climate tech companies in our portfolio. The list was notable because the companies up to that point had raised $1.85 billion from investors (including $89 million from SOSV), and had a market cap in aggregate of $5.65 billion.

Techcrunch reported on those numbers and commented that SOSV’s “planetary health’ mission was “paying off.” We subsequently published detailed analyses of the list’s founders and investors, and we announced an Oct. 20–21 event called the SOSV Climate Tech Summit, aimed at helping the climate ecosystem move faster.

Now it’s nearly five months later, and the Climate Tech 100 list financials are due for an update. Thanks to the strength of the companies on the list as well as a powerful surge in climate tech venture investing, the financials for the 100 have taken a big step forward.

  • The SOSV Climate Tech 100 aggregate value has jumped from $5.7 billion to over $8.1 billion, an increase of 44%.
  • Total investment in the 100 increased $508 million to reach $2.36 billion, an increase of nearly 28%.
  • SOSV topped off its investments with $13.8M to reach $103 million, an increase of 15.5%.

Join IndieBio at the SOSV Climate Tech Summit

IndieBio will be a big part of the SOSV Climate Tech Summit on Oct. 20-21. The event is virtual and free. The summit’s purpose is to convene the founders, investors, technologists, corporates, media and anyone else keen to understand and accelerate the climate tech startup ecosystem. Read more about the event here. Register here.

Several IndieBio folks are a part in the programming, including Po Bronson, Arvind Gupta, Pae Wu and Gwen Cheni, and so are IndieBio alums like Dr. Uma Valeti, CEO and founder of UPSIDEFoods. There are also many speakers on the main stage, the majority in fact, who are not from SOSV and represent some the best minds at work across startup climate tech. You can see all the speakers announced so far here.

In order to help both founders and investors, one very special feature of the summit is a series of 18 breakout sessions dedicated to early stage investors, incubators and government agencies that have a strong track record working with pre-seed and seed climate tech startups. They range from SOSV’s IndieBio and HAX, to TechStars, The Engine, DVCV, MassChallenge, the NSF and ARPA-e, Greentown Labs, Energy Impact Partners, and more. Look for the full list to be published soon. The sessions will be led by senior partners at those outfits and focus on what they have to offer climate tech founders. The breakouts will be staged one after another so that founders can easily catch them all. The sessions will also be live with plenty of time for audience questions.

Finally, the summit will offer an Expo that features some of the top climate tech companies from all the programs that are offering breakout sessions. SOSV is offering Expo spots to all the companies that are part of the SOSV Climate Tech 100.

The SOSV team is working hard to produce a great event that really benefits everyone in the climate ecosystem who is working hard on breakthroughs that will help address climate change. Please join us at the event. It’s free and virtual. Register here.

This could be the milkiest vegan ice cream ever

“Perfect Day’s research found that its process generates 85 to 97 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventional dairy production. It also doesn’t use any of the hormones or antibiotics (or, for that matter, land) needed to keep that immense livestock machine running. You won’t find any lactose or cholesterol, either.”

Built with Biology: Aja Labs and Microterra

In this podcast, hear how Marissa Cuevas at MicroTerra is solving challenges for farmers with plant-based ingredients and how Osahon Ojeaga and Mary Ellen Moore at Aja Labs are creating plant-based hair extensions that help our planet and human rights. These IndieBio startups are blazing new trails with new leadership and new vision.

Protera Announces Final Close of Its $10M Series A Led by Sofinnova Partners

Protera Announces Final Close of Its $10M Series A Led by Sofinnova Partners. AI-powered startup to use funds to advance its protein platform as company moves towards commercializing its product portfolio. Mexico’s Bimbo Group and the ICL Group join financing round.

NotCo gets its horn following $235M round to expand plant-based food products

By Christine Hall

NotCo, a food technology company making plant-based milk and meat replacements, wrapped up another funding round this year, a $235 million Series D round that gives it a $1.5 billion valuation.

Tiger Global led the round and was joined by new investors, including DFJ Growth Fund, the social impact foundation, ZOMA Lab; athletes Lewis Hamilton and Roger Federer; and musician and DJ Questlove. Follow-on investors included Bezos Expeditions, Enlightened Hospitality Investments, Future Positive, L Catterton, Kaszek Ventures, SOSV and Endeavour Catalyst.

This funding round follows an undisclosed investment in June from Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer through his firm EHI. In total, NotCo, with roots in both Chile and New York, has raised more than $350 million, founder and CEO Matias Muchnick told TechCrunch.

Currently, the company has four product lines: NotMilk, NotBurger and NotMeat, NoticeCream and NotMayo, which are available in the five countries of the U.S., Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Colombia.

Beeflow raises $8.3 million to save the bees AND put them to work

Bees are absolutely critical to the health of our agricultural system, ecosystem, and overall wellbeing as a species here on Earth. And yet bee populations are decreasing and extinction concerns are growing.

Beeflow, a startup that today announced the close of a $8.3 million Series A round, is looking to both save the bees and help farmers be more efficient and effective at the same time.

The startup uses proprietary scientific technology that essentially makes bees healthier, particularly in cold weather. A wealth of research led the company to understand that certain plant-based foods and molecules, when fed to the bees, can reduce the mortality rate of bees by up to 70 percent, and help them perform better in colder weather.

You might be wondering what I mean by performance. That’s fair.

Bees are the planet’s natural pollinators. They turn flowers into fruit, spreading pollen from one landing spot to another. Many farmers will ‘rent out’ bees from beekeepers to hang out on their farms and pollinate their plants. In almost every way, the effectiveness of this can’t be measured, and the bees themselves can’t truly be controlled.

Beeflow’s technology ensures that the bees are healthy and strong, and can fly up to 7x more during colder weather than they’d be able to without it. This means that those bees are much more likely to effectively and efficiently pollinate crops for the farmers.

MicroTERRA: Feeding the World While Cleaning Water

MicroTERRA grows lemna with fish farmers to recycle pollution and feed the world. Lemna, also known as duck weed or water lentil, uses the nitrogen and phosphorus in the fish waste as fertilizer, preventing these nutrients from growing to toxic concentrations. It contains up to 40% protein and up to 25% pectin, an ingredient known in the food world for its great binding abilities. Using lemna, microTERRA creates nutritious, functional ingredients for the plant-based foods industry. The first microTERRA customers are the pet food producers, who require minimal processing of lemna meal to use it in pet food. They are also working with chefs to highlight their color- and taste-free ingredient in high-end plant-based foods.

See microTERRA at IndieBio New York Class Two Demo Day

We spoke with MicroTERRA Co-founder & CEO Marissa Cuevas to gain insight into her technology and motivation in building her startup.

What insight inspired you to start your company?

This idea of a circular economy, transforming residues into resources, is the key insight for me. 

I still remember one lecture when I heard that the next world crisis is going to be about water. It shocked me so much that I decided this is worth focusing my career on to solve it. 

70% of the world’s freshwater goes into agriculture. And it’s easy to create a solution to up-circuit or transform those residues into resources. If we focus on the majority, then we can make a difference. 

What is your go-to-market strategy?

I think this is an excellent question because this kind of questions and conversations will define if your business is alive or dead. 

For us, it’s about bringing a balance point between our vision and reality. On one hand, the more lemna we can produce and sell, the more water we can clean and save. So, we want markets that have high volumes. 

On the other hand, we have to go back to reality. We cannot produce very high volumes right now—so, we need to find a premium market. At the same time, we need to have the quality to sell to these premium markets. Because we are only a small startup, our products had to go through many iterations to reach that quality. 

To find where the sweet spot is, we had to do a bunch of empathy interviews to find out who our potential customers are and what they are most excited about. Then we try to create the architecture for those people, and then replicate. 

We are also conscious that our go-to-market strategy will change over the lifetime of the startup. For example, we were so sure we wanted to sell first to the premium pet food market. We thought it’s easy and doesn’t require premium quality ingredients (no one minds if there’s a bit of green coloring remaining in the lemna meal). But we have recently seen a lot of excitement from plant-based restaurants, because our new ingredient offers a playground for them to build their amazing creations. 

To be a successful startup, you have to have a very flexible mind. And you have to hear your customers; they know better. 

What’s the most rewarding part in your entrepreneurial journey?

Transforming an idea into something tangible is so fascinating, magical, and inspiring. 

When we look back at our initial plans, it’s exciting to realize how much of those plans we have executed. We are closer to being a real company; we are starting to sell products. It’s really, really exciting! Knowing that these products, this company  originated from a thought—that is fascinating.   

How do you differentiate from your competitors?

Our differentiating factor is our innovative business model.  We grow lemna in existing aquafarms, and this allows us to produce lemna in a sustainable, affordable, and scalable way. We don’t have a lot of capital expenditure, and we can add new farms very quickly. In fact, we have a waiting list of farmers who want to work with us. 

What does the future of food and agriculture look like in 5-10 years?

Food and agriculture tech must come together. In terms of food, we need to move toward sustainable solutions, not only for the planet but for our own health. In addition, we also need to make it affordable for everyone. 

In terms of agriculture tech, I believe that we are moving towards more regenerative agriculture systems. We need to look at ecosystems and how to enable their health while producing food.

Beemunity: Protecting Our Pollinators

Beemmunity protects bees from the effects of both lethal and sublethal exposure to pesticides. Their ingestible microsponge technology absorbs all pesticides and allows them to be safely expelled without harm. Beekeepers can simply add this product to their current bee feeding processes to detoxify their bees. This prevents bees from the direct toxic effects of pesticides, and also prevents the bees from becoming immunosuppressed due to constant low-level pesticide exposure. Beemmunity protection leads to healthier bees, strengthening both crop pollination and honey production.

Watch Beemmunity at IndieBio New York Class Two Demo Day

We spoke with Beemmunity Co-founder & CEO James Webb to gain insight into his technology and motivation in building his startup.

What was your inspiration for saving the bees?

I have always been interested in how insects contribute to our natural world and their importance in our food production. And I also get frustrated that the bees are dying. Although people keep on researching that, an effective solution is lacking. 

I luckily found myself in a lab which allows me to explore ideas using functional and useful biomaterials. I’m glad that I could make something happen in that space. 

How do you decide who your first customers are going to be in preparing your technology as a product?

We looked at what is the earliest stage we can put a product out there with the data supporting the functionality of the product. Right now, we are carrying out these colony scale trials and gathering data from that. And the commercial beekeepers are quite sensitive because their hives are their livelihoods. So, we are looking at the consumer market initially. 

Hopefully we can launch some consumer products this year which we are rapidly designing at the moment. And then, early next year, we hope we will gather enough data so that we can put together a good strong package for beekeepers. 

Overall, we got a lot of interest from backyard beekeepers. And we hope that the commercial beekeepers, the large scale beekeepers, can adapt in the pollination season next year; February 2022. 

How do you differentiate from your competitors?

Unlike our competitors, Beemmunity has a naturally-derived solution. Our approach is different from others who attempt to either brace the bee’s physiology for pesticide exposure, or simply deal with the inevitable impacts of exposure. 

Beemmunity directly and specifically detoxifies pesticides, thereby eradicating the issue. It means our approach is far more effective in preventing bee mortality and sublethal effects.

What does the future of your industry look like in 5-10 years?

In the future, we will successfully protect the critical pollinators from pesticides in areas like agriculture when pesticide application is absolutely necessary. 

I also hope technologies, such as this, can reveal how nature can thrive when pesticides are removed from the equation. I hope there will be a reform around pesticide application.

What’s been the most rewarding part of your entrepreneurial journey?

The most rewarding thing definitely is to bring people together and create something cooperatively. It’s amazing what we can achieve together. 

When you bring together people who don’t really know each other, you think goodness what is this going to come to. And then two months down the line, when you look back, you see that you have actually achieved quite a lot. 

Read coverage of Beemmunity’s accomplishments, including more on their technology, here.

Could This Be the Lab-Made Dinner Party of Our Future?

A slew of start-ups are engineering faux meats, eggs and dairy products that conjure a time when we move from farm-to-table to lab-to-table.

Amy Lombard for The New York Times

I spend nearly as much time talking about how I want to stop eating meat as I do eating it. I care about animals and the environment and, even more, virtue signaling about how much I care about animals and the environment. I just don’t want to make any effort or sacrifice any pleasure.

Lucky for me, a slew of venture-backed companies want to help me with my lazy altruism. They envision a world where we sit down for dinner and brag that no animals were harmed in the production of this carbon-neutral porterhouse. They want to Impossible Burger our entire diet. They want me to shift from farm-to-table to lab-to-table.

It’s beginning to work. Consumer sales of the increasingly impressive simulacra of meat, eggs and dairy products grew 24 percent from 2015 to 2020, according to the market research company NPD Group — and 89 percent of those people are, like me, not vegetarians.

Kraken Sense: Pathogens Have Nowhere Else to Hide

A considerable amount of effort is taken to make sure that the water that is used to process and rinse your produce is clean and clear of pathogens like salmonella and legionella. Even with all the regulations that are imposed on our food supply chain to prevent such outbreaks, we are still not impervious to these bacterial threats. The affects not only public health, but also environmental, as millions of pounds of food are thrown away because of the scare. The primary reason is that the current methods for testing are too slow and too cumbersome to alert us fast enough. We sit down with Nisha Sarveswaran to talk about her innovative platform to disrupt the water testing market.

How did you first become interested in water safety? What life experiences led you to this?

Water quality has always been a passion of mine. I was born in Sri Lanka and I knew many people who didn’t have access to clean water, so I have always been conscious of the importance of safe water access. Our continuous progress is only ensured if we can properly manage our basic resources, and having safe water is critical to everyone.

I learned about the importance of water testing while doing research on pathogen-related illnesses and food recalls. It became clear to me that the present testing methods, developed more than fifty years ago, cannot meet the water and food supply challenges of 21st century.

Why not?

The current best practice is to take a sample of water, culture it in the lab for three days and have a trained technician examine the results to determine the presence and the extend of the contamination in the original sample. With our just-in-time logistics network, the produce collected and tested today may already be in the grocery store three days from now, so the current testing methodology takes too long and too limiting in scope.

With our real-time detection methodology, we can identify the contamination issue at the source and prevent the costly recalls that we are always hearing about on the news.

What’s special about your technology?

Ours uses a system based on antibodies on a carbon nanotube, which are tiny materials with very interesting properties. With our specific treatment and manufacturing methods we are able to create thin, narrow, electrically conductive strips with embedded antibodies specific to certain bacteria and even strains. When exposed to water samples that contain the target bacteria, the electrical signal changes in a very unique way, and that allows us to detect the presence and concentration of the bacteria that we want to detect.

Because we are measuring the signals immediately as water is passed through, we can essentially detect pathogens in real time. The only limit is how fast we can concentrate the water, and how fast the antibodies bind to the pathogens to get a noticeable change in our signal. This real time signal means that you can catch pathogens before the food even leaves the door of your facility. Compare that to having to get a water sample, and literally shipping it to a testing facility.

Incredible, that must really save a lot of time and money!

Yes! People need to understand that it’s not just about how many people get food poisoning. Just think about how much perfectly good produce out there gets thrown out because of a bad apple in the market (pun intended).

How do you mean?

For example, once a bad batch of romaine lettuce leaves a facility, it’s hard to track where all of it goes after, and once a few people get sick from it, the entire industry panics and avoids romaine lettuce, which kills the prices and puts the entire romaine market in shock (for good reason). This scare translates to hundreds of millions of dollars of food wasted, which is not only an environmental waste, but also a waste considering how many people are currently food insecure.

Interesting! So this isn’t just about people getting food poisoning, you’re saying this is a much bigger supply chain efficiency problem?

Food consumption is growing rapidly with our rising population and increasing prosperity. Our resources and supply chain will become more strain and will require modern solutions to identify the potential contaminations in real-time. The sensors that are able to detect harmful bacteria, in as little time as possible, are becoming more and more important to ensure food safety.

Moreover, by detecting contamination early, we are not only able to prevent costly recalls and associated health implications, but can also significantly reduce the food waste by providing alternative utilization for food that is no longer fit for human consumption. Currently the food waste from the supply chain accounts for 6% of the total greenhouse gas emissions. Our solution will ensure that the food that is distributed is safe and thus will also reduce the food waste that happens in the supply chain due to recalls.

You’re not a one-trick pony are you? I assume you can test for multiple pathogens?

We are building a multi-pathogen lab-on-a-chip system that can detect multiple pathogens simultaneously in real time. The remarkable advantage of our approach, other than the real-time capability, is that if there are antibodies available for a certain pathogen, we can build a sensor that can detect it and add it to our list of capabilities.

This work however goes beyond simply creating new sensors. In order to ensure that the results can get to the right hands in as little time as possible we have also developed automated water sampling systems and AI based machine learning algorithms running on our cloud platform that can interpret the sensor data and send the results in seconds.

Looks like you can cover a really broad spectrum of pathogens, but how fast can you make a test for other pathogens?

We can develop a new sensor in under 2 months, for example having developed the E. coli sensor we have spent some of the time at IndieBio developing Legionella sensor. This process will only accelerate as our first sensors enter the market and the process of creating new sensors becomes more established.

So is the speed at which KrakenSense is testing going to be the new standard for water testing? Are we going to see you guys across the entire supply chain?

We are working on developing protocols to help increase food safety testing and establish our methodology as the new standard for water testing. We really think that the water testing market won’t be the same after a few facilities can test in real time.

It’s like Amazon’s 2-day shipping: Once people start to get used to the speed, they just can’t imagine going to a much slower system… likewise, we think once we have a few pilots and customers, the rest of the market will start to find their conventional way of testing really outdated, and will want to come to us. In the near future, we see our solutions being present across the supply chain from early detection on the farms, to critical supply chain points that are highly susceptible to contamination.

So what’s on your roadmap now?

We are raising the seed round to further develop the lab on the chip system, expand our detectable bacteria capabilities, and pilot our solution with several key customers that will demonstrate the concept to the industry in general. At the same time, we are developing a suite of tools that will be used in tying it all together with blockchain technology so that every supplier has constant traceability in their food supply chain in real time.

Reazent: Powering Organic Agriculture

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

CEO and co-founder, Sumit Verma

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

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

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

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Quote from Earl Butz, US Secretary of Agriculture in 1971

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our advisory team has experts from the industry and academia.

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

The Future of the Planet: Food Systems

Po Bronson, Managing Director at IndieBio hosted this panel featuring Special Guests:

Bruce Friedrich, Co-founder and Executive Director of The Good Food Institute (GFI), Christine Moseley, Founder & CEO of Full Harvest, Tom Tomich, Founder of the Food Systems Lab at UC Davis, &  James Joaquin, Co-Founder & Managing Director at Obvious Ventures.  Thank you all for joining us!

“Grocery stores once felt abundantly restocked, that was until COVID-19 hit our food systems. Restaurants closed, plant workers contracted the virus, milk was poured out, rice piled up at ports, hogs were asphyxiated.

In reaction, IndieBio asked today’s food pioneers and leaders – What will the future of our food systems look like and how will our food security be impacted?

The Current Food Situation

Christine Moseley, founder and CEO of Full Harvest, first saw the food waste problem at a lettuce farm.

“I watched as they were harvesting only 25 to 30% of the romaine head to perfectly bag it for grocery stores and let up to 75% fall to the ground, even before it reached the consumer,” Moseley said.

A study conducted by Santa Clara University in 2019 found that one-third of all edible produce in the US doesn’t leave the farm. “It’s purely just because of access, or it’s just not perfectly shaped for retailers.”

Tom Tomich, Founder of the Food Systems Lab at UC Davis and Professor at the Department of Environmental Science and Policy, extended on access to transparency. “The food system is about profits, and it’s also about power. You need to bring in ontologies that allow us to understand more about, well – Who’s pulling the levers? Who’s got the power here?”

Bruce Friedrich, Co-founder and Executive Director of The Good Food Institute explained, “the meat industry is a big part of the problem in terms of inefficiency and in terms the range of environmental harms.”

He explained the inherent contradictions in our eating behaviors to environmental needs. Basically, most people know that slaughterhouses are not sustainable.

“Yet per capita, meat consumption just goes up and up and up… 2019 was the highest it has been in recorded history,” explained Friedrich.

“There’s something about human physiology. We like meat, we want to eat meat, we want the sensory experience of meat,” continued Friedrich. “So rather than continuing to beat our head against this wall… let’s change the meat.”

“We need products that taste the same or better, and that costs the same or less. That’s the Holy grail,” said Friedrich.

Launching our Minds and Stomaches into the Future

One solution has been cellular meat, which allows meat cells to grow without complications of animal welfare.

“That’s going to take a long time to scale,” mentioned James Joaquin, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Obvious Ventures. “But there’s some of our greatest minds working on it.”

 “The excitement around regenerative agriculture is getting us past this monoculture, of how efficiently can we grow corn and soybeans?”

Joaquin mentioned lupini beans from Europe and duckweeds from water.

Then there’s the world of mushrooms. “There’s a startup called Meati, growing mycelium root systems to create this really textured fibrous kind of substrate,” explained Joaquin. “You can then season and flavor to create a whole cut meat alternative.”

Moseley, who’s business seeks to solve farm food waste with technology, mentioned experimental methods of fermentation and preservation including, IQF freezing, pureeing, and powdering.

“I think a lot that can, will, and needs to be done not only for nutrition purposes and extracting things out of it as much as possible, but making it last as long as possible,” Moseley explained.

With emerging technologies at our fingertips, collaborations will widen our culinary experience – that is as long as it tastes good.”

Summary by Emily Quiles

IndieBio Call for Applications

SOSV Announces Launch of IndieBio New York

— World’s leading life sciences accelerator expands to New York City —
— Call for Applications Open Now —

(NEW YORK, January 7th, 10:30am EST) — SOSV, the world’s most active investor in both life sciences and hardware, announced that the inaugural cohort of IndieBio New York will start in Manhattan in May 2020, with applications being accepted beginning today.  

“We’re doubling down on life sciences,” said Sean O’Sullivan, founder and Managing General Partner of SOSV. “We are looking to bring what IndieBio has created for the California life science industry to the East Coast. New York is a great hub for life sciences research and financing, and will be a natural center for life science startups.”

SOSV created the world’s first life sciences accelerator in 2014, and in the past five years has backed nearly 200 life science startups with a combined valuation of over $3 billion, raising more than $700 million, and employing over 2,000 people. This number includes pioneering deep-tech startups like Memphis Meats (cellular agriculture), Prellis Biologics (human tissue engineering), Synthex (cancer therapeutics), NotCo (plant-based animal-free food products), and Perfect Day (milk without the cow).

Sweetening an already attractive deal – Up to $2 million per therapeutics startup

SOSV’s IndieBio already has the most competitive terms in the industry, funding 20 to 30 life science startups each year in their program with $250,000 in exchange for a small equity position in the teams. With IndieBio now in New York and San Francisco, SOSV will double the number of startups funded and will also trial a therapeutics track that will fund up to $2,000,000 per startup accepted into the program. This will be the first time an accelerator anywhere has offered such a cash-rich package of benefits.

“We’ve seen a lot of success with our therapeutics startups already,” said Arvind Gupta, SOSV General Partner and founder of IndieBio in San Francisco. “Yet therapeutics companies often require more animal and safety studies in order to de-risk the startups for later-stage capital and unlock huge value creation. We want to see what will happen to our deal flow by offering up to 8 times the capital for an initial group of startups.”

Upon success, IndieBio will expand the therapeutics funding track to as many as 12 therapeutic startups per year across both San Francisco and New York. Therapeutic startups in the program will receive up to two years of wet lab facility, coworking space, and mentoring access to on-staff PhD scientists. SOSV will be building out a 24,000 square foot lab and co-working space for their NY-based startups, more than doubling their space in New York City as part of this expansion.

Solving Global Challenges With Hands-On Support

SOSV invests over $10 million annually in infrastructure — building out and running wet labs, electronic labs, and mechanical facilities, in addition to  offering on-site support teams of dozens of experts, engineers and PhD scientists. The benefits of these programs help startups with accelerated product development and increased access to an ecosystem of corporations, investors and over 1,000 specialized mentors.

“This year nearly $1 billion will go into SOSV-backed companies from VCs and corporate investors,” said O’Sullivan. “On top of the $65 million SOSV invests directly into our startups every year, SOSV’s deep-tech startups are getting huge funding leverage from our syndicate of VCs, angels and corporates.”

SOSV closed the $277 million SOSV IV fund in December 2019. From this fund, SOSV both provides accelerator funding as well as provides post-accelerator follow-on funding of $200k to $2 million per startup, per round, for all startups which go through SOSV programs. 

Call for Applications Solving for Human and Planetary Health

Startups can apply for IndieBio New York’s first cohort until March 1st, 2020 at http://indiebio.co/apply. The program kicks off in April 2020.

Additional Portfolio Highlights

In the life sciences arena, SOSV invests in human and planetary health, as an early investor in plant-based foods, cellular agriculture, computational biology and regenerative medicine.

SOSV is a pioneer in ‘clean food’ and cellular agriculture with investments in Geltor (animal-free collagen), Clara Foods (egg proteins), and Abbot’s Butcher (plant-based meat). SOSV was the initial investor in Jungla (A.I.-driven genomics), acquired in July 2019 by Invitae (Nasdaq: NVTA).  

Therapeutics has always been the core application of biotech, and SOSV has remained one of the industry’s most active funds, investing in cancer therapeutics (Filtricine, A2A Pharma), new modalities for autoimmune diseases (Diadem, DNA Lite), regenerative medicine (Membio, BioAesthetics), and gene delivery (Serenity).

About the IndieBio New York program

IndieBio New York has been created with the support of New York State’s Life Science Initiative, administered by Empire State Development. New York State will invest up to $25 million over five and a half years in support of IndieBio’s work connecting life science entrepreneurs with the tools and resources needed to move their discoveries out of the lab and into the marketplace. The Partnership Fund for New York City will invest $10 million into the startups coming through the program. SOSV also plans to invest an additional $60 million or more into the IndieBio New York startups. 

The program will work alongside New York’s leading academic institutions to commercialize both local and global inventions. Startups funded by IndieBio New York must relocate to New York for the duration of the program, and can leverage the extensive resources of the east coast life sciences industry.

About SOSV

SOSV manages over $700 million with a portfolio of over 900 startups. Managing Partner Sean O’Sullivan created the firm in 1995 after the IPO of MapInfo, the startup he co-founded that pioneered street mapping on computers. In 2010, SOSV opened Chinaccelerator, the first accelerator program in China, and was the first to create accelerators in hardware (HAX) and life sciences (IndieBio). Today, the firm has eight general partners amongst a 110-person staff across nine locations in the US, Europe and Asia.

In both 2018 and 2019, three of SOSV’s startups were selected each year as creators of the Top Inventions of the Year by TIME Magazine, a feat unparalleled by any Fortune 500 company or any other VC. 

For further information: Kayla.Liederbach@sosv.com

The Most Incredible Technology You’ve Never Seen

Guest post By Bryan Johnson, founder of Kernel, OS Fund, and Braintree

Saving the world (or some subset of people in it) is in vogue among the world’s wealthiest.

Jeff Bezos has a rocket company, Blue Origin. Bezos believes our future is extraterrestrial, and his rocket company exists because he thinks the price for getting anything off this rock is too damn high.

Bezos is not alone. Elon Musk is also building huge, reusable rockets. He wants to see humans fly to Mars, initially on a lark but eventually for forever.

This type of long-term thinking about the future of our species coupled with serious investment is important. But Bezos and Musk (and most other investors) are missing the most significant — and smallest — technological opportunity to save humanity.

No one has captured this tech blindspot better than my friend and Ginkgo Bioworks Co-Founder Jason Kelly. He did it by showing an image like this:

“What’s the most advanced piece of technology you see on this desk?,” Kelly asked his audience. The correct answer is in green.

A $4 houseplant is one of the most astonishing objects ever assembled. It’s a biodegradable, carbon-capturing, self-replicating, solar-powered work of art. Have you ever bought an electronic gadget that even comes close?

The mind-bending fact that a common shrub is more advanced than the latest MacBook Pro is overlooked by almost everyone. We fail to see it for a simple reason: the coolest parts of a plant can’t be seen. Not with the naked eye, at least.

It’s at the molecular level that plants fix CO2, soak up sunlight and churn out nutrients that we can eat. Way down at the level of atoms and molecules, the most mundane living objects are doing things that our best engineers can only dream of.

Small solutions to big problems

Humanity faces enormous, imminent challenges. The way we use energy is poisoning the planet, we are on track to use up many of our most important non-renewable resources, and we are ill prepared for the next inevitable global pandemic. And that’s just a small sampling of the challenges we see coming; there are dozens more around corners we can’t see around.

Major advances in deep tech – the marriage of hard sciences and emerging technology –  is going to be critical if humanity is to survive these challenges and thrive, but most of the money in the world is maintained or managed by people who do not have formal scientific training. For example, just 5% of the Forbes richest 400 people have formal scientific training. Most therefore invest in things they’re familiar with, like real estate, software and finance.

I founded OS Fund to support the scientists entrepreneurs bringing deep tech to market; leveraging hard sciences and technology to rewrite the basic operating systems of our world. Atoms, molecules, genes and proteins can be designed like never before. The biological world has already demonstrated what’s possible on this scale — if we’re going to aim big as a species, it’s time we think small.

At OS Fund, we don’t invest in particular problems. Instead of trying to solve energy or climate change or the spread of disease, we invest in the foundational technology that could be applied to solve all problems. In the same way that early computer companies like Intel, Apple and Microsoft helped spawn the modern era of computing, we aim to do the same thing with atoms, molecules, organisms and complex systems.

The scientists at Ginkgo Bioworks, one of the first companies in the OS Fund ecosystem, are charting their way by designing bacteria that puff out perfume, crops that fertilize themselves, gut microbes to make medicine, and much more. With three highly automated foundries up and running, the company is poised to upset almost every industry you can think of.

Arzeda, another OS Fund company, is using computers to design new genetically-encoded nanomachines, otherwise known as proteins. Although most of us know proteins only as food, these intricate biological objects actually do almost all the work needed to keep cells alive. Designing new proteins from scratch will let humanity play by biology’s rules, meaning we can design our way to better food, fuels and chemicals in the greenest way possible.

Another OS Fund company rewriting our world is NuMat, where they’re  arranging atoms in MOFs (metal organic frameworks) to create the most powerful sponges you’ve never heard of. NuMat works at the intersection of high-performance computing, chemistry, and hardware systems to design and manufacture materials that can filter non-renewable material like xenon out of thin air.

But wait, I can hear you thinking, isn’t AI going to eliminate the need for this kind of innovation?

That may be the grandest challenge of them all. How are we as a species going to thrive in a world where artificial intelligence can do more even than our best minds? The answer again requires innovation at the molecular level.

I started Kernel, a neuroenhancement company, personally investing $100M, to help ensure that humans and AI evolve together. We are working at the bleeding edge of neuroscience, solid-state quantum devices, materials science, and photonics to develop the science and brain interface products to allow people to bring their brains “online,” and use that data to radically improve themselves. Radical human cognitive improvement is a requirement if humanity is going to thrive in the future we are barrelling toward. We are a few tools away from an evolutionary leap; what’s on the other side of it is beyond what we can possibly imagine.

Investing in huge rockets, brain interfaces and tiny molecules isn’t actually that different. Developing a green global economy and exploring beyond our pale blue dot are complementary — not competing — visions of the future. It’s time investments in our future here on Earth get the attention and scale afforded those focused on our future in the cosmos.

NovoNutrients: making food from CO2

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

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

How did you first become interested in aquaculture?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Call for Applications

Biology is the next big technology and we are looking for scientists that will usher the new wave of iconic life science companies.

“Nothing is normal in the new biotech; it’s inherently cross-disciplinary and purposefully attacks preconceptions of what can’t be done.”- Po Bronson

Why Scientists?

Scientists make amazing entrepreneurs due to their technical expertise, problem solving skills, resourcefulness and persistence. Over the years, the number of life science PhDs has been rising exponentially and at the same time running biological experiments is becoming faster and cheaper. Our ability to read, write, cut, copy and paste DNA more efficiently is significantly decreasing costs and increasing speed and accessibility of experiments. Tying these trends together, IndieBio enables scientists to build radically transformative companies through our unique program.

Our Program

We take a design-driven approach to integrate product and business development in continuous feedback loops. Startups can rapidly prototype and get early customer traction at a pace that is closer to an IT startup rather than traditional biotech.

During our 4-month program in downtown San Francisco, scientists leverage $250,000 in funding with our fully-equipped labs, 300+ mentors and a galvanized ecosystem of industry, academia and investors that enables life science businesses to thrive. Our interdisciplinary team works with the companies every day to enable scientists to de-risk their science and business. Together we build the foundations of a viable and scalable business that can impact billions of people.

 

What types of companies do we look for?

We are here to fund scientists that can translate scientific insights into commercializable products that solve large scale human and planetary problems.

The biggest advantage a startup has is the precise focus on solving a problem from first principles. Our most successful founders build on deep technical knowledge with market insights that come from approaching the problem from all angles. As a result, startups create new business models, reimagine antiquated systems, or build industries from the ground up.

We welcome applications of biology for any industry. Thus far, our companies have represented the eight categories below, but we are most excited about companies that bridge multiple categories or invent new categories.

 

Therapeutics

Despite the billions spent in R&D, we continue to treat symptoms and not the causes of disease. New modalities such as immunomodulation and functional metabolomics are setting a new paradigm in drug discovery and delivery. With gene therapy we will have the ability to directly edit our own genomes to fix inherited diseases and transcend our parents’ genetic material. Across all these modalities there has been a rise in platform technologies enabling repeated target and therapeutic discovery.

Regenerative Medicine

Regenerative medicine and tissue engineering will give us control of how we treat damage to our bodies, from losing limbs to restoring loss of function from paralysis to growing whole replacement organs. Furthermore, we can intervene and reverse the processes of aging.

Neurotechnology

We are only beginning to understand the brain. New biological and digital tools are needed to understand and treat neurodegeneration and mental health. Brain computer interfaces open up new possibilities for human consciousness.

Medical Devices, Tools & Diagnostics

Early detection of diseases that can seamlessly integrate in to healthcare workflows not only enhances decision making through precise real-time biomarkers, but also, eliminates centralized labs and administrative bottlenecks that are burdening the healthcare system. The advancement of research tools is critical for unlocking new knowledge that can lead to life-saving solutions.

Future of Food & Agriculture

Food supply cannot catch up with food demand at the same time supply remains inefficient and unethical. New biotechnologies are changing the unit economics of how we produce protein. Vertical integration of food and agtech can enable us to unbundle the food supply system and increase efficiencies of production.

Consumer Biology

Driven by faster and cheaper science, companies will bring biology direct to consumers in an increasingly personalized manner. The first human genome cost $2.7B. Today people can order an at-home sequencing kit for $100. Products are increasingly putting the power in the hands of the consumer to manage their own health.

Computational Biology, BioData, & AI

Biology is rich with data and complexity and companies are increasingly leveraging bio-processes with machine learning and automation, creating bio-feedback-loops to optimize each stage of a life science company: from discovery to manufacturing.

Industrial Biology, Biomaterials, & Clean Biotech

Not only is our demand for commodities unsustainable, the industrial processes for converting commodities into everyday products remains inefficient. Biology is inherently versatile and scalable. Cells, the building blocks of life, live to divide, and under the right conditions they can be engineered to create bio-materials and novel commodities that can then be scaled exponentially using fermentation without harming the planet.

 

Our Application Process

Online Application. Our application process begins with an online submission at http://indiebio.co/apply.

Technical due diligence. Selected companies are invited to a 30-minute video interview that focuses on technical due diligence. We encourage applicants to ask questions about the IndieBio program throughout the process.

De-risking milestones. If the first call is favorable, our team will set up additional calls to discuss the product, the business plan, and discuss the derisking milestones that the company aims to achieve by the end of the 4-month program. Often, homework is assigned to address certain questions. Once discussions are mutually favorable, an offer is made.

Deeper look into how do we evaluate companies. We evaluate companies based on five key questions.

  1. What is the technical insight that gives you an unfair advantage? This is often the core technology that can be patent-protected, whether it is licensed from an academic institution or developed in-house. What advantages does your technology have over competing technologies? How does your technology address the core problems you are trying to solve?
  2. How is the insight made into a product? Science itself is not a product. Product development starts with understanding the end user. What problem are you solving for the end user? What is the form factor? What is the workflow? What are the parameters for a successful drug? What product do you focus on first when you have a platform technology?
  3. How does the product form a sustainable business? What is the go-to-market strategy for roll-out when the startup is cash limited? How to gain adoption? How to navigate regulatory pathways?
  4. Can this business make $1 billion or touch the lives of 1 billion people? Venture capital investment seeks the potential for big returns and big impact.
  5. Is this the team to make it all happen? Arguably, the most important aspect of selecting teams at an early stage is the founders themselves. Do they have the experience and expertise to turn their technical insight into a viable business and propel the company into a flourishing venture? We look for founders who are coachable, able to make decisions rapidly, take responsibility, are resilient, and are passionate about their work. We look for founders who are self-aware and possess a growth mindset.

The interview style is informal conversations and we often instill a mini preview of the IndieBio program during the interviews. Our application timeline is rolling, with set deadlines that batch the interviews. We encourage applying early and sending periodic updates of progress even if you don’t hear back immediately. Updates are also encourage between interviews as it could take time for both sides to come up with good strategies. We also encourage re-applications if you were not selected for one class. Some of our most successful companies reapplied 6 months later with significant momentum. Most ideas and teams will take a while to mature. (Read “I have an idea. What’s next?” for the starter checklist.)

Lastly, we encourage you to due diligence on us. Learn more about our story and our program featured in Neo.Life. Attend or livestream our next Demo Day on Nov. 6th at the Herbst Theatre or watch the previous ones on Youtube. Talk to founders of any of our alumni companies or attend an event at our space.

 

Apply Now!

We look forward to hearing your world-changing idea! Apply now at http://indiebio.co/apply!

Terramino Foods: Fungi as an Alternative Protein

Killing an animal and eating its flesh is not the only way to gain protein. Now more than ever, we need alternatives to conventional animal farming and fishing—not just because of animal welfare, but for human and environmental health. What’s happening now is not sustainable.

Terramino Foods uses fungi as a complete protein source which acts as a seafood alternative. Described as healthful, protein-rich, sustainable, ethical, and delicious, the company is working to help people reimagine meat and seafood with fungi, that has the proper taste, texture, and nutrition. We asked the company’s founders, Kimberlie Le and Joshua Nixon, more about their mission:

How did you become interested in science?

I don’t think either of us can remember not being interested in science. We think that science can be boiled down to just being curious and seeking answers about things around us.

When did you decide to start a company, and where did your team get together?

We started Terramino about a year ago upon completion of the alternative meat lab program at UC Berkeley which supports and helps scientists and engineers build a better food system through fixing the problems with animal agriculture/meat.  

How does your technology work?

We use fungi as our alternative protein source that creates well textured, nutritionally similar, amazing tasting seafood and meat products. We are starting with salmon and seafood products which have increased human and environmental health concerns.

What lessons did you learn transitioning from science to entrepreneurship at IndieBio?

We had already been quite immersed in entrepreneurship through UC Berkeley at the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship, however starting a company has been a learning experience in that there are always a million tasks to juggle and only a limited amount of time and resources. The biggest lesson we learned is that execution is the name of the game (thanks, Arvind) and our goal is build a transformative company that truly disrupts that way people consume meat and seafood.

How do you think your success as a company would change the seafood industry, and our environment?

We aren’t just going after seafood – we want to make a large impact on animal agriculture as a whole since it has detrimental impacts on human, animal, and environmental health. Our goal in the long run is to be able to provide a sustainable, nutritious, tasty, and most importantly accessible source of protein for every person on the planet.

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

We are going to be scaling up production in a few phases and making our processes more efficient to be competitive on price with seafood and meat products. We also want to work on formulation of a range of products that are delicious for plant and meat eaters alike, and all the picky eaters in between. Developing our product line and marketing/branding are also very important since there is a crucial education component to our products.

Watch Terramino Foods pitch on IndieBio Demo Day, Tuesday April 17th in San Francisco or via LiveStream. Register here!

Lingrove: Wood Without Trees

As humans, we love the aesthetically pleasing look of wood. It’s a beautiful material, but our planet is being harmed by the massive rates of deforestation as a result of supplying wood to various industries.

What if we could have a wood-like material without cutting down trees? That’s where Lingrove comes in. Using plant-based fibers and resins, they have created a more eco-friendly solution to fill the demand for wood. The material has a familiar natural grain look, and it’s already been successfully used to make guitars and ukuleles which have professional sound quality. We asked Joe Luttwak, the founder of Blackbird Guitars composite string instruments, a few questions about the history of Lingrove:

How did you become interested in science?

JL: I became interested in science through biology. The majesty and strength of trees was an early interest that extended to understanding the greater context of eco-systems as I got older. I remember being obsessed with smaller creatures like beetles and dragonflies whose exoskeleton are strong and light and later became an inspiration for the structural composite materials we make today.

When did you decide to start a company, and where did your team get together?

JL: Blackbird Guitars spent several years developing biobased composites for musical instrument applications. Working closely with Entropy resins, our efforts resulted in the first line of Ekoa instruments. After achieving exceptional performance and aesthetics, it was clear that many other potential applications existed, so Lingrove was founded in 2014 to help other products benefit from our R&D effort. And as Lingrove expands our product offerings and expertise in sustainable design, we added a PHD candidate from UC Berkeley with an expertise in biomaterials.

How does your technology work?

JL: We combine natural flax fibers with bio-based resins to create a material that looks, feels and sounds like wood—but without any wood. The natural flax fibers are the strongest of all natural fibers, and with our technology they can be made to replicate the contours of many wood grains.

The bio-based resins mean our products are not derived from crude-oil, and are instead made from natural sources. We make a strong, water and mold resistant material that can be molded into any shape while still keeping the beautiful wood grain aesthetics.

What lessons did you learn transitioning from science to entrepreneurship at IndieBio?

JL: I was already an entrepreneur starting Blackbird Guitars 12 years ago. However, Lingrove is a different type of company, and being at IndieBio has been instrumental in helping me make the transition from my technology and current business to the thinking involved in the mass production of my product Ekoa.

How do you think your success as a company would change the lumber and construction industries?

JL: For generations we have cut down trees to fill our need for materials. But today 91% of quality timber is gone, and industries reliant on this wood are struggling with lesser alternatives. We continue to want what the heirloom quality woods have to offer, but wood is no longer a convenient or ecological answer.

The lumber and construction industries have been slow to change and to wake up to the continual environmental degradation our massive building needs create for the planet. With Ekoa as a new viable material for the construction industry, we would be slowing down deforestation and hence helping to reverse climate change.

Because Ekoa is lightweight, stronger and more moldable than wood while still having the high quality look and feel of wood, we know the industry will be able to increase innovation in design.

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

JL: We are about to launch a new application of our material Ekoa which will allow current and new buyers to design completely new forms.  We then plan to continue to roll out the mass-production of Ekoa and to steadily lower its price point.

Watch Lingrove pitch on IndieBio Demo Day, Tuesday April 17th in San Francisco or via LiveStream. Register here!

Pheronym: Pesticide-Free Food for the World

Pheronym

It’s no secret that the agricultural fertilizers and pesticides create major problems in our soil, water systems, animal life, and more. Thankfully there are people who aim to solve this problem, like Fatma Kaplan and Cameron Schiller, who co-founded their company Pheronym in 2012. Pheronym offers nontoxic plant protection in a new way: They are creating pheromones that direct beneficial nematodes—microscopic roundworms that exist abundantly in every ecosystem—towards insects and away from plants, creating an effective insect kill rate without leaving harmful residue on crops. Since nematodes account for 80% of all individual animals on Earth, Pheronym is tapping into a vast resource. The company’s CEO, Fatma Kaplan, explained more about the company’s background:

How did you become interested in biotech?

FK: I come from a farming family, so I know the importance of pest control to farmers. Without pest control, crop yield is reduced 50% to 80%. Therefore, I pursued an undergraduate degree in Agricultural Field Biology. I immediately recognized that biotechnology held great promise for agriculture. I pursued a Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology, followed by postdoctoral training in chemistry, to bring discoveries in biotechnology to Agriculture.

How does your technology work? What would it look like as a product?

FK: Our first product, Nemastim™ provides a safe and effective way to direct beneficial nematodes to seek and attack target agricultural pest insects. Our other products in the pipeline will target parasitic nematode control, or stopping common unwanted nematodes that eat the roots of crops

Nemastim is an additive to commercially available beneficial nematodes. It is a dry powder in a small package. The nematodes are treated with Nemastim for 15 minutes in water. Then the activated nematodes are sprayed onto the field using the same equipment that farmers already own. They will travel up to a foot searching for and attacking insects, resulting in at least 5X more insect death compared to untreated nematodes.

The powder affects the signal nematodes use to tell each other that resources are getting low and they need to go out find a new insect. Of course the signal’s effect does not last forever, so when the signal effect goes away, they stop searching. We basically remind them they do not have enough resources and they need to search for more.

What was it like transitioning from science to entrepreneurship?

FK: My transition to an entrepreneur began when I realized that my discoveries would never make it onto the field unless I was the one driving them. I knew that I needed to learn more about entrepreneurship, so I sought out a business incubator that provided support for fledgling companies. The transition has been a little scary because it took me out of my comfort zone, but I have been fortunate to meet a lot of helpful business mentors.

I must admit that I never thought entrepreneurship could be such an exciting and intellectual journey. At IndieBio, I met the CEOs of the coolest start-ups and got to learn about the most exciting new technologies across a wide range of disciplines. I also have a lot more appreciation for biotechnology products because I now know how much effort goes into it to bring them to market.  

How do you think your success as a company would change the agriculture industry?

FK: Our products are non-toxic pest control solutions, so they will allow farmers to protect their crops without toxic pesticides that poison our air, land, and water. Success of our company will empower nature and provide a sustainable pesticide-free food to every household in the world.

What are the milestones you’re looking to hit in the near future?

FK: We will complete our greenhouse trials, recruit a sales force, scale up our production, and enter the greenhouse market.

See Pheronym pitch at IndieBio Demo Day on September 14th in San Francisco or via Livestream! Register here.

Finless Foods: Pollution-Free Fish, Thanks to Biotech

It’s an exciting time for the future of food, as technology has finally enabled us to grow meat without slaughtering animals. Finless Foods has applied a similar technology to produce fish from cells, creating a sustainable source of seafood. The company’s timing is crucial as our oceans are not only being decimated by overfishing, but also being heavily polluted with plastic and other toxic chemicals that move up the food chain to consumers. Supporting healthy, lab-grown fish that tastes like conventionally caught fish seems like a no-brainer, and the company has already been generating buzz from the media. The company’s co-founder and CEO, Mike Selden, shared more of their story:

When did you decide to start a company, and where did your team get together?

Brian and I first met at UMass Amherst where we both studied Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. We started our company in Brooklyn, during the summer of 2016, when we put some real serious thought into how inefficient and environmentally devastating the current food system is. We then brought on Dr. Robert Hughes and Dr. Jihyun Kim once at IndieBio.

How does your technology work? What will your product look like to a consumer?

Our technology takes a small sample of fish cells and grows them out quickly and cheaply to be eaten as a replacement for conventionally caught fish. To the consumer it will look like the fish they know and love to eat, but on the inside it will be very different. Our fish is a return to the traditional fish that people used to eat before we polluted the oceans. Our fish tastes the same but won’t have the mercury and plastic that people are eating through currently industrial fishing.

How did you become interested in biotech?

I became interested in biotech because I took a chemistry class in college as part of my neuroscience major and realized I loved chemistry. I switched to biochemistry and from there fell in love with all of the crazy applications. We’re currently going through a biotech revolution. It’s like the early days of the invention of the computer, but it’s happening again for DNA and cellular biology.

What was it like transitioning from science to entrepreneurship?

It was a very natural fit for me. I’ve always been more of a people person and big on talking about big ideas. A history of political activism has trained me how to work with others and explain my ideas effectively. This has proven invaluable as an entrepreneur in a million ways, and I’m finding new ways every day.

How do you think your success as a company would change the food industry, and the world?

We will create a healthier, cheaper product with a steadier supply chain. A lack of affordable delicious healthy protein is a food justice issue, and we will solve it. We will remove the need for trawlers to destroy ocean ecosystems, and for giant fish farms to pollute waters used for centuries by local fishing populations. This will not only remove cruelty from the process, it will create something better for everybody and the planet.

What are the milestones you’re looking to hit in the near future?

We’ll very soon have our own custom cell culture media. Current media is extremely expensive, uses animal components, and is very variable batch to batch, making it unsuitable for industrial production. Ours will be cheap and animal-free as well as consistent, making our process easier and also viable as a commercial product.

See Finless Foods pitch at IndieBio Demo Day on September 14th in San Francisco or via Livestream! Register here.

Pictured above: The Finless Foods team.

Building Food Molecule by Molecule

Post By Ron Shigeta

Lessons learned in Biotech Food Innovation

Over our first four classes and 55 startups funded, IndieBio has built up a new class of food companies. We are so honored that AgFunder’s annual survey voted IndieBio one of the Top 3 most valuable’ accelerators in AgTech.

It’s been a lesson for us that biology can have such an impact on food. About a quarter of our portfolio are food and Ag companies. which have many approaches to food but are each highly innovative. Together they have created a new philosophy of how to improve food quality, reduce waste, transparency and achieve eco-sustainability; Molecular Foods.

The impact on life sciences for food up to now has been quiet but pervasive. Nearly everything we eat is checked for quality and nutritional content. The protein content of seafood (which breaks down as it gets old), the gluten and protein content of grain (which varies depending on how its grown and stored), the melting point of fats and dozens of other tests are run on food coming in from producers and wholesalers worldwide. Now verification is becoming an issue — DNA sequencing is showing that the species of one in three fish sold is not as advertised.

Over nearly 60 years of intensive development in making pharmaceuticals, assisting cutting edge R&D, the tried and tested staples of life siences can impact a market like food (and others). Life sciences is allowing for high end quality while scaling to feed us affordably. Producing food while understanding each molecule in it, Molecular Food writes food quality instead of just reading it.

“Molecular Food doesn’t just read food quality, it writes it.”

We’ve funded several approaches to Molecular Food. Also surprising has been that all of the food solutions we’ve funded heretofore are non-GMO and most can be organic/biologique. Here I describe five types of food innovation we have participated in as Molecular Foods to try to

Next-gen plant-based foods

These companies make foods we know and love using ingredients only from plants. Following ambitious companies like Hampton Creek and Impossible Foods that thoroughly produce the foods we want to eat but without expensive animals.

By combining proteins, fats, carbohydrates etc from different sources, foods with the same texture, mouth feel — the same experience — are created. New experiences that cannot be gotten any other way are also emerging.

Plant ingredients are less resource-intensive and have much fewer issues with bio-contaminants like Salmonella and E. coli. Eating plant based foods is healthier overall and that’s why the demand is outpacing the overall market for these foods.

Clean meat

The trillion dollar North American meat product is another target for better transparency and quality. Memphis Meats produces muscle cells directly for meat products, producing the cellular structures that give meat its full satisfying texture. All with a fraction of the resources and cost.

Brewed foods

Geltor and Clara Foods use yeast strains to brew up protein based foods like gelatin and egg whites. Working with them was an amazing experience. Tasting these foods coming out of fermentation like you’d find in a brewery, not only were they the familiar experience you’d experience but the ability to control the quality was a clear advantage. The ingredients are made and ready to use in hours; all of the inputs and the purity coming out are documentable with consistency that you can see. This will cut down on opaque and sometimes global supply chains that make much of our food today.

Understanding of taste, memory, and experience

Later companies include Ava Labs, GEA Enzymes and MiraculeX, which take a fresh look at wine, fats, and non-sugar sweeteners respectively. Each can create the experience of foods. Ava Labs has been creating better and better wines from the molecules that make it up. Among other possibilities they may become a historical repository for vintages which Ava Winery can help recall and reproduce rare tastes that change over time and are eventually lost forever. Later this week GEA Enzymes will present the worlds first fully liquid dark chocolate — an espresso like experience that has the full range of tastes of an exclusive dark chocolate without the dry and crumbly mouth feel.

Along the supply chain from farm to table

We have also worked with AgTech companies that have a strong biotech foundation. EnduraBio has a natural plant extract spray that cut the water consumption of a crop plant in half in a test they did with us. AstronaBio produced a 20 minute test for food pathogens, replacing a 3 day testing cycle. Pure Cultures and Animal Biome are unravelling tangle of the microbiome and producing products that work; a feed supplement that replaces antibiotics and a treatment for severe diarrhea in companion animals respectively.

“Molecular Food” is certainly an idea in progress, but the potential to fix security, waste and consistency in the global supply change has been an exciting realization that will mature in the near future.

Join me for the Future Food-Tech summit in San Francisco March 29-30.

Use the code INDIE300 and get $300 off registration.

An Interview With Steve Kazemi of Pure Cultures

Pure Cultures

Enough With All the Antibiotics in Livestock.

Pure Cultures

It’s no secret that much of the animal meat consumed by humans contains antibiotics that are excessively used in the raising of livestock. This leads to damaging health effects in humans, and contributes to the ever-growing issue of antibiotic resistance. In comes Pure Cultures, a startup creating a solution for farmers who want to raise healthy animals and eliminate the overuse of antibiotics in the food chain. We asked the company’s CEO and co-founder, Steve Kazemi, a few questions:

Tell me about your background, how did you get interested in science?

I got interested in science early because my father is a petroleum engineer and a PhD professor at Colorado School of Mines. He always stressed the importance of science and math. I remember being around 10 years old when I asked for a chemistry set. It came with a burner, a set of chemicals, and a book of a couple hundred experiments. I probably completed half of the experiments within a few days.  

After college I moved back to Colorado and I was employed by Hauser Chemical in Boulder, where we were extracting Taxol from the bark of the Yew tree. Taxol is still one of the best chemotherapies for cancer. The culture of the company was similar to a university. There were many PhDs working at the company, and they had an open office policy where they would teach chemistry and engineering on a regular basis.  I loved the fact that we were saving lives with a novel cancer drug. Then we moved to producing high quality herbal products. I was excited to be affecting health with a more natural approach.

What problem are you working to solve with your company, Pure Cultures?

Bacteria are crafty. Their job is to learn how to survive in harsh conditions. When antibiotics are used in humans or animals, they kill both the good and bad bacteria, and the bacteria learns how to adapt quickly. Some bacteria are able to develop a resistance to the antibiotic dosed. If an animal or human then gets exposed to another pathogen that requires medical treatment, dosing with an antibiotic might not work because the bacteria are immune. This is what has caused 700,000 deaths a year in humans.

Antibiotics also travel up the food chain to humans from eating animals. 80% of human antibiotics produced are used in our livestock to promote weight gain, and many are used on healthy animals. By reducing even a small amount of these antibiotics, it will have a greater effect on saving human lives because the rate of antibiotic resistant bacteria generation will be slowed.

Pure Cultures believes that developing natural solutions to use as an alternative to antibiotics will have a significant effect on human health and our environment.

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

When our solutions produce data that validates our product effectiveness, and our customers pay us, we will have validation we are building the right business.  

How do you think success can change your industry?

Our innovative natural solution is disrupting the animal nutrition space and will ultimately affect the health and wellness of meat-eating consumers.

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

The Pure Cultures team is constantly working to improve its technology – and move the science of probiotic product development forward. We have complementary backgrounds in science and business strategy. I have over 20 years of experience managing probiotic manufacturing operations for clients such as Trader Joe’s and Perrigo which generated $35 million in annual sales, in addition to having expertise in fermentation and operations.

Colleen is the co-founder and CMO, with over 20 years of marketing and business strategy experience working with Fortune 500 companies. She has deep experience in B2B sales and marketing strategy and execution. For the last five years she has served on the Board of Directors for Tomboyx, and consulted for several startups, accelerators, mid-level, and B2B enterprise companies located in major hubs nationally. Colleen and I are married and have a blended family of an 11-year-old, 15-year-old, 20-year-old and 28-year old.

Any big lessons learned transitioning to startup entrepreneurship?

Yes, great businesses are built on customers. Learning how to find customers and sell product has been challenging and rewarding.

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

Time and money. We are constantly having to make decisions on where to focus our time to move as quickly as possible. We are on the cutting edge of a health conscience boom. We have the opportunity to be one of the first products on the market with our proprietary solution. We want to make smart decisions but move quickly.

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

In the next four months, we want to raise our financing round while focusing on generating revenue. 2017 has started out great for us and we want to keep up the momentum.

In the long term, we intend to hire a CSO and broaden our understanding of how to produce novel antimicrobial agents.

Learn more about Pure Cultures by watching Steve pitch on IndieBio Demo Day Feb. 9th! Register for the event or LiveStream here!

World Agri-Tech Investment Summit Partnering with IndieBio

World Agri-Tech Investment Summit Partnering with IndieBio
World Agri-Tech Investment Summit Partnering with IndieBio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A: Any big lessons learned transitioning to startup entrepreneurship?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get in touch with Alex at alex@geltor.com

The Edible Bioeconomy – Panel and Mixer in SF, May 29

The Edible Bioeconomy

JOIN US

Network and meet with some of the new wave of entrepreneurs that are changing the way we look at food at the intersection of cuisine and biotech, creating sustainable, safer food and new experiences and address the problems of industrial agriculture.

Featuring beer brewed with strains of exotic belgian beers, vegan sushi made from tomatoes, and milk and egg whites made from yeast.

Join us in conversation with:

  • James Corwell, Certified Master Chef, creator of Tomato Sushi a sustainable vegan sushi.
  • Arturo Elizondo, Clara Foods, brewed egg whites.
  • Ryan Pandya, Muufri, where the future of Milk is without cows.
  • Matt Markus, Pembient, wildlife ingredients sourced from science.

Hosted by Isha Datar of New Harvest, a sustainable food non-profit

Join us after the discussion for samplings of vegan Sushi from Tomato Sushi and bespoke Cultured Fresh Beer from Almanac Beer.

Sponsored by New Harvest SynBioBeta and Indie Bio

Event Link: JOIN US