An excerpt from Arvind Gupta’s “Five Insights from investing in Prolific Machines“:
The heart of Prolific Machines’ approach to reinventing the assembly line for food is rooted in identifying the most expensive drivers of cell culture. Cost analysis shows that by weight, growth factors are by far the most expensive part of growing food – or anything really – in culture. So Deniz and his team had devised a novel way to eliminate the need for these growth factors in mammalian cell culture. What that means is it would theoretically enable cells to grow at the cost of electricity and basic nutrients like sugar.
There are many approaches to make growth factors cheaper. But none that I know of to eliminate their need in culture altogether. That is what Prolific was proposing to do (exactly how will be revealed after the final bricks in their patent wall are placed). But if eliminating growth factors is possible, the impact on humanity would be enormous.
90% of the fish consumed in the U.S. comes from China and overseas
Vertical farms are exploding, but why grow lettuce? There’s something else you can grow that generates 12x more revenue, on the same minimal land footprint. No, it’s not marijuana. It’s shrimp – in multi-story vertical oceans.
Humankind’s future will include cultured meat and plant-based meat, but it will also include sustainably grown animal protein. What “self-driving” is to the car industry, “self-cleaning” is to the booming aquaculture industry. Zero waste, zero effluent. With Feed-Conversion-Ratios (FCRs) below 1.0. Vertical Oceans aims to be the world’s first seafood company to reach these hallowed benchmarks. The whole system is run on their biocomputer. Having just moved from their pilot facility to a larger demo facility in Singapore, they’ll be running four harvests this spring and are coming to Chicago soon.
The AltProtein space is abuzz, but lacking in products that engender the same finger-licking scrumptiousness of devouring a plate of tasty wings. Sundial Foods developed a novel processing technology for creating plant-based whole cuts of meat — complete with skin, meat and bone. The beauty is in how it ends up on your plate from only eight clean-label ingredients.
Before they were even in our program they were already selling their 1.0 product in the grocery stores in Switzerland. During the IndieBio program, Sundial has increased their degree of automation from 30% to over 70%, and acquired key new hires to help push them towards bigger production. By the end of 2021, they’ll be starting at the Rutgers Food Innovation Center, where Impossible Foods also got their start.
NOTE as of February 2, 2023: This company has now pivoted to Fc antibody engineering with their new protein engineering platform. More details to come soon.
The major lesson of the Cleantech 1.0 era was “reduce or avoid the Capex.” Today, in the new Cleantech 2.0 era, we are always looking for companies that can scale up without the huge investment needed into expensive facilities.
Proteinea is a new approach to the field of precision fermentation. You might call it “bioreactor-free.” Rather than growing high-value complex biologics in e coli, or in yeast, or even in insect cells – inside large steel bioreactors – Proteinea uses whole insect larva, growing on low-cost feedstocks. These larva are inoculated and produce the target biologic in every cell, then through downstream processing, the target biologic is extracted and purified.
With this approach, bioproduction can scale up far more rapidly and with ultra-low capex spend. Right now, Proteinea is working on multiple projects with three corporate partnerships. One is scaling up a polio-vaccine. One is an aquafeed vaccine. And one is a biologic drug.
Can Green Chemistry be a high-margin business? The conventional wisdom has been “no.” Bio-Nylon, for example, has a big Green Premium because manufacture is so expensive. Ozone Bio changes the bio-nylon industry’s economics — enabling high margin and massive growth. In addition, they can make Nylon a circular-economy product for the first time, using lignin waste from the paper industry. Their process is so super-scalable that they are already working at 50 liters volume.
OzoneBio is producing an emissions-free, low-cost adipic acid produced from waste feedstocks to make the world’s only bio-nylon 6, 6 that can compete in the open market. No green premiums needed here. The zombie cell technique invented by co-founders Khorcheska Batyrova and Anna Khusnutdinova eliminates the need for costly metal catalysts. This adipic acid is scalable, cost competitive with petroleum-derived products, and can be made from wood-derived aromatics.
OncoPrecision can predict a patient’s response to cancer therapies by replicating the tumor microenvironment ex vivo. Their unique, triple co-culture method increases patient-derived cancer cell viability 60x in a 2.5D format that has been validated using real patient data. For patients in dire need of the right cancer treatment the first time, OncoPrecision offers doctors the assurance that decisions made today will make the difference tomorrow.
When time is of the essence, being able to screen potential therapies with your personalized cancer avatar in under 10 days is fast. Doing so with more accuracy than today’s sequencing or organoid approaches is huge. Through their growing list of strategic partnerships, OncoPrecision is screening, selecting, and speeding up the delivery of precision oncology.
We’ve had an on again, off again relationship with fats. One crucial challenge for plant-based foods is that they’re missing the fat. Most of the time, they incorporate coconut oil as an ersatz lard or butter, and it’s simply not hitting the spot. As a B2B company, Lypid is putting a new spin on fats to bring lip-smacking goodness to the exploding plant-based meat category.
Despite huge sales jumps, plant meat is only 2.5% of the protein market. For the next wave of growth, plant meat needs to be more like animal meat.
Vegan oils have different textures, melting points, water content, and flavor-volatility than animal fats. Lypid are the inventors of PhytoFat, a line of fats made from vegan oils that can be tuned to precise textures and melting points. They do this without additives like texturizers, emulsifiers, or hydrogenation. Their secret? Water. Which makes their products healthier, lower cost, and more fat-like.
Dr. Chris Rhodes, the CEO of Innate Biology and nutrition influencer with over 150K followers on TikTok (@thatnutritiondr), wants create products that can support the massive intermittent fasting industry. Innate Biology has invented the world’s first “fasting mimetic” supplement designed from years of human research at UC Davis to give people the benefits of fasting without the fasting. How? By supplementing with a combination of the same beneficial bioactive metabolites your body naturally produces during a prolonged fast.
Unlike their competition, Innate’s fasting mimetic is designed from human research, for maximum human benefit. These are the compounds that evolved in your own body over millennia to induce a “bio-program” of cellular health, regeneration, and longevity. The results? Innate has shown that their fasting mimetic extends lifespan by a stunning 74% in model organisms and creates powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects in human cells.
In fermentation, biologists focus on free-floating bacteria and yeast for making products today – and if biofilms develop, it’s a big problem.
Capra reverses that equation. In nature, 99% of all bacteria exist in the biofilm state, and at Capra, biofilms are the solution. Biofilms mean more cells packed tightly together, working together as a team. Capra designed their unique bioreactor around this unique insight, resulting resulting in a process that requires less infrastructure, up to 100X water, and minimal downstream processing. These bring cost savings up to 90% on CAPEX and OPEX.
Capra is making high performance lubricants for the $150 billion motor oil market. But first they’re making a bio-Retinol for the cosmetics market.
Canaery will be a security company, detecting and identifying dangers in all goods and people – at ports, airports, inspection points, and borders. They don’t use X-Rays, nor do they use cameras. Instead, they will use scent. Absolutely everything in the world gives off a unique signature of volatile compounds, perpetually – a scent-fingerprint.
Being able to detect and identify everything through scent has long been a holy grail in tech. Canaery is a neural interface company from the Rinberg Lab at NYU, the world’s leading lab for how olfactory information is represented in the brain. It can detect critical information for security to health and from farms to ships. Canaery will do for scent what machine vision has done for sight.
Around a decade ago, cocoa bean cells were cultured in giant, 20,000 liter bioreactors – it worked, except for one little problem. To get the cells to grow, they had to use the main toxic ingredient in the herbicide RoundUp.
California Cultured has solved that issue by enticing cocoa cells to grow with stimulation by food ingredients you’d find in any grocery store. Second-time founder Alan Perlstein (Joywell Foods) leads this team, which is going to market rapidly with a D2C subscription model.
The benefits extend beyond social impact. California Cultured’s cocoa cells are less bitter, which helps human health. This is important because conventional chocolate can be 50% sugar to counteract cocoa’s bitterness. California Cultured is aiming to reduce sugar content 10x.
Half of all plant species are at risk from climate change
The world is changing faster than crops can adapt. To make crops more adaptive, we need a speedier way to alter their gene expression. Most plant genes are unexplored because their role is too subtle to be picked up by GWAS. Avalo.ai are leaders in interpretable machine learning in the realm of agricultural genetics.
This drastically narrows (by around 100x) the scope of candidate genes to validate. Paired with a system to deliver gene regulators via the soil, Avalo.ai attempts to replace the trial-and-error breeding of the past with a computational and programmable responsive system.
Around the developing world, women and girls as young as eight years old are paid just $11 to $25 for selling their hair to supply the hair extension marketplace. The only readily available alternative is plastic synthetic hair, made from petrochemicals, from which consumers often experience toxicity reactions. At worst, these plastics potentially trigger endocrine disruption. Despite all these issues, extensions and weaves are still a fast-growing $7 billion market.
Aja Labs aims to be the ethical and more sustainable choice in hair extensions and weaves. Aja Labs makes human-like hair from plants by utilizing proprietary fiber processing, biotechnology, and microparticle technology to upcycle waste crop matter into premium, healthy hair extension products. The team is engineering sustainable fibers using materials that are better for human and planetary health.