Class 12
San Francisco Batch 12
Updated January 13, 2022
Jason Fontana, PhD, CEO
“Imagine drugs that adjust their own dosing on the fly. Cellular factories that know how to optimize their own metabolism. Gene editing that activates only in the right place. The key is RNA.”
Wayfinder Biosciences has raised $675,000, from SOSV, Box 1, and Genesis Consortium.
Today, engineering biology is like trying to shoot down a fighter jet with a bow and arrow. Biotech is waiting for someone to develop the heat-seeking missile.
It takes the world's RNA experts years to make an RNA-based biosensor. Wayfinder does it in 2 weeks.

In the last few years, aptamers linked to CRISPR have brought programmable logic to drug design. However, the logic is primitive – once turned on, CRISPR remains on. Wayfinder is working on RNA-biosensors so that drugs can continuously sense their microenvironment, and turn modalities like CRISPR both on and off in response to what they are sensing.

And they do it way faster than anyone else in the world. Wayfinder is WAY faster.

A spinout from the Center for Synthetic Biology at the University of Washington, Wayfinder has already done 8 biosensors and is engaging multiple ecosystem partners.

Micah Nelp, PhD, CEO
“Imagine sunscreens so safe that we could literally eat them, and metabolize them like any plant protein.”
Soliome has raised $525,000, from SOSV and Genesis Consortium
“Reef safe” isn’t safe. “Reef friendly” isn’t friendly.
14,000 tons of sunscreens enter the ocean each year.

All  available  sunscreen  active  ingredients  absorb  through our  skin,  interfering  with  hormones  and  even  exacerbating UV damage. Meanwhile, SPFs in cosmetics,  washed down  the  drain at night,  accumulate  in  sensitive marine  environments,  where  even  the  “reef  safe”  versions threaten endangered corals and marine life.

Based on groundbreaking work in protein engineering at Princeton, Soliome has reinvented sunscreens and SPFs, an $18B global market. ​​It is totally safe, long-lasting and goes on clear without white residue.

Why now: In October of 2022, new FDA regulations on sunscreens take effect, dramatically reducing the cost and burden of approval.

Why it’s scalable: Because Soliome can make their SPFs from any protein. Even common plant proteins already used as food.

Alex Hutagalung, PhD, CEO
“Mosquitoes are the deadliest animal in the world - a child dies from malaria every 30 seconds. And we’re going after them with technology that’s renewable, efficient and unlike any other company before us.”
Pyrone Systems has raised $275,000 from SOSV.
The best new green chemistry platform also has the best hero product: the world’s best biopesticide.
The pesticide industry is desperate for new compounds because insects have grown resistant to traditional ones.

Pesticides are always a compromise: if you kill the mosquitos, you end up killing the bees too. Pyrone discovered a rare natural compound that controls mosquitos and other pests not by killing them, but by temporarily stunning them. Already fast-tracked by the EPA and being tested by the USDA in Gainesville, Pyrone is now scaling this compound in their fermentation system with Agile Biofoundry. 

Conventional thinking is that synthetic chemistry is cheaper than biology. Pyrone focuses on compounds that biology can produce far cheaper than chemistry. From the same process used for the biopesticide, they can make 7 other products, accessing $40 billion in markets. 

Davide Zanchi, PhD, MBA, CEO
“In many diseases, cells die when we’d like them to live. In others, cells refuse to die, and grow into a tumor. What if we could switch cell death on and off?”
Prothegen has raised $275,000 from SOSV.
Cell death has a new enemy
1 million cells in your body die every second.

There’s thousands of ways that cells become unhealthy. But until 2012, there were only two ways that cells actually die. That year, the cofounder of Prothegen, Dr. Scott Dixon, discovered a new way cells die, called ferroptosis, an iron-mediated failure of antioxidant defenses. Now Dixon has partnered with Roche alum Davide Zanchi and chemist Derek Pratt – one of the world’s specialists in free radical trapping – to develop drugs that stop cells from dying of ferroptosis. 

Ferroptosis is implicated in some of the main life threatening conditions of our time: stroke, ischemic injuries, neurodegeneration, cancer, NASH, and organ transplantation.

Jean Pham, MS, CEO
“Patients hate the invasiveness of cystoscopies. And urologists have more valuable uses of their time. 90% of them can be eliminated with just a urine sample.”
Cellens has raised $500,000 from SOSV and other angels.
Cancer cells feel different. To the touch.
Cellens is at 94% accuracy in detecting bladder cancer from urine. Next up is colorectal, then replacing the PSA score.

In the field of liquid biopsy, the abundance of new technologies are mere screening tests. They can’t monitor patients’ progression and drive clinical decisions. The real money is in monitoring disease patients, for years. 

Atomic Force Microscopy scans the surface of cells at such high resolution that it can not only discriminate cancer cells from healthy cells, it can identify the stage and aggressiveness. The scientific community is so excited by Cellens’ work that grant funding is covering all the costs of their pre-clinical trials at Dana Farber, Dartmouth, and UW.

Jared Moore, CEO
"Electric vehicles are coming fast but nobody is talking about the elephant in the room: how slow it is to charge them"
Solid Ox Motors has raised $525,000 from SOSV and Genesis Consortium.
Capture CO2 while you drive
“Fast” charging is 2-3x more expensive. And not that fast.

Solid Ox is building Range Extenders for commercial fleets of electric trucks and buses. These range extenders use liquid fuel, where the CO2 is captured on board, right back into the fuel tank. Emissions-free. 

Commercial fleets that need long range are very price sensitive to fueling costs. They also run day and night, so have short windows to refuel or recharge. Solid Ox allows fleets to refuel in half the time, at half the cost. 

Solid Ox has a partnership with Smith Electric Vehicles.

Franco Martinez Levis, MBA, CEO
"Degraded soil WILL be the new norm, unless we stop it."
Puna Bio has raised $800,000 from SOSV, Genesis Consortium, and GRID-X.
Growing where others can't.
33% of our world’s agricultural soil is degraded. Without bold innovation, 90% of soil will be degraded by 2050.

The market value of farmland is driven by yield. For example, increasing soy yield by 10 bushels an acre can double the value of the farmland.

Puna Bio repairs soil health using extremophiles – organisms 3.5 billion years old, sourced from La Puna, the highest and driest desert on Earth. These organisms grow where others can’t – and they sustain plant life, despite getting 1/5th the rainfall of Death Valley.

When an athlete trains at altitude, she is even stronger at sea level. So it is with Puna’s extremophiles. They work wonders on degraded, acidic, and salinated soil. In fertile soil, they boost yields 4x more than competitors, with far more consistent results.

Puna Bio is already at industrial scale, having treated +600 tonnes of seeds this season, and conducted over 20,000 acres of field trials.

Sahan Runamukha, PhD, CEO
“In order to take timely clinical actions on your heart, it’s worthless to measure synthetic, downstream, or correlative variables. We need a direct measure of the critical element that makes your heart beat.”
ProtonIntel has raised $1.2M from SOSV, Genesis Consortium, and a syndicate of angel investors and clinicians.
The first and only continuous potassium monitoring for heart and kidney care
Chronic kidney disease is bigger than diabetes, affecting 37 million Americans.

Potassium controls every single heartbeat you have, but it’s the kidneys that control your potassium levels. You could say the kidneys are the gatekeeper to your heart.

Kidney care is going through dramatic market disruption. Home dialysis is displacing clinics. And patient care management companies are siphoning off patients. Nevertheless, these patients are still ending up in the hospital 2 to 3 times a year, because none of them have a way to remotely and continuously monitor patient potassium data. ProtonIntel will power this entire new ecosystem. 

Rodolfo Faudoa, MD, CEO
"We've been working on this problem for over a decade, before the cultured meat industry had even considered it a problem. And now we can grow meats 20X cheaper than with serum-free media"
Cellcrine has raised $275,000 from SOSV.
The world's most powerful and affordable cell media supplement
Serum-free media costs $400/L, and comprises more than 90% of the cost of growing cultured meat.

CellCrine discovered an enzyme that transforms cell culture for the cell-based meats industry.

It’s made recombinantly, but can be used at such low concentration that only a tiny bit is needed.

The impact is dramatic — reducing the need for insulin, transferrin, FGF2, TGFb, and other expensive media ingredients. The cells grow nearly as fast as they do en vivo.

CellCrine’s enzyme works by stimulating cells to make their own growth factors; it also chaperones growth factors to receptors. With muscle cells, they also help myotube formation. 

The enzyme is food grade and natural.

Christoph Geisler, PhD, CEO
“The forgotten organ, the microbiome, has the potential to be just as powerful as the liver at detoxifying waste from our bodies.”
Unlocked Labs has raised $525,000 from SOSV and the Genesis Consortium.
Go with your gut
More than 20 MM Americans actively seek non-prescription solutions for their debilitating conditions caused by excessive levels of waste toxins like urate and oxalate. Another 50MM are at risk!

Modern lifestyles are hard on our livers and kidneys, the organs that filter and break down metabolic waste products. But people don’t want to take drugs – they want to get healthy. Unlocked Labs unleashes the power of the microbiome to help out. 

Unlocked is a consumer probiotic company that unlocks silent genes – regaining the power to reduce toxins in our bodies.

Some gut microbes have the genes to eat our waste products as food, as a carbon source. These are dormant genes – they can be unlocked and activated. The company’s first products reduce uric acid and oxalic acid. High uric acid leads to gout, and high oxalic acid leads to kidney stones.

Plantruption has raised $525,000 from SOSV and Genesis Consortium.
You have to sea it to believe it
Plant based seafood is expected to skyrocket over 13X in over the next decade

All over Europe, people know the best tasting seaweed comes from Ireland. Sea & Believe founder Jennifer O’Brien walked every beach in Ireland, tasting the seaweed for her alternative seafood. She found one beach where the seaweed was remarkably tastier than all others. “It just had that distinctive spray of the ocean,” said O’Brien. 

But this one beach cannot sustain an industry. Sea & Believe is cultivating this special strain for its filets and goujons. You’ll want seconds. 

For this new line of foods, Plantruption has partnerships with Wageningen University, Clextral, and the University of Limerick.

Yehuda Borenstein, CEO
"Our solution is not competitive with other crop science programs. It's additive. It's fast, easy, and we can work on almost all crops."
ClimateCrop raised $525,000 from SOSV and the Genesis Consortium.
Breaking the photosynthetic barrier for 400k species
Immediate yield jumps: 90% in Potatoes, 41% Canola, 24% Sorghum. Coming soon: Poplars, Cotton, Corn, Lettuce

Photosynthesis wastes sunlight. Many scientific efforts are underway to reengineer photosynthesis to increase yields. Climate Crop – 5 years in the making at Weizmann Institute – will outgrow them all. 

It works in all vascular plants. It’s simple – downregulating one enzyme. During the day, plants increase their storage of transient starch; at night, they use this starch as building blocks for all cell matter. Climate Crop simply increases the storage of transient starch – then the plant takes it from there.

Climate Crop will power applications across agriculture and industrial markets. Higher yielding cotton. More affordable animal feed. Carbon-sucking poplars.  Aviation fuels from rapeseed.

Enrique Gonzalez, MBA, CEO
"We make high-value proteins by skipping the first 99% of the plant's lifetime. That's how we go 100x faster."
Veloz Bio raised $275,000 from SOSV
The world's fastest protein design & development platform
Plants are 62.5X more efficient than animals at producing proteins

There’s two general concerns around molecular farming, where animal proteins are grown in field crops. First, the extraction and purification. Second, the regulatory landscape for transgenic crops amidst other farmland. 

Veloz Bio doesn’t use the farm. And the founders are experts at extraction and membrane purification. Without the need of bioreactors, they can develop and scale up new protein production in less than 6 months.