This is ONLY A PREVIEW of our current batch of companies at the San Francisco office. The batch started August 1st, and Demo Day is anticipated to be January 18th, 2023. Please sign up for our newsletter to get the exclusive announcements from our companies and for Demo Day. Updated September 15, 2022
In order to supply our agriculture and industries with an available source of nitrogen, we rely on a chemical process that requires 400˚C of heat and more pressure than at the bottom of the world’s deepest lake. It’s no wonder that ammonia production releases 500 million tons of CO2 annually (3% of the world’s carbon emissions). Producing green ammonia is a tall order that has puzzled chemists for decades.
With inspiration from nature, Nitrofix has designed a readily-available catalyst that can produce ammonia at room temperature and pressure, thereby nearly eliminating the heat and pressure (and thus carbon) costs. This might sound too good to be true, but their electrochemical process can produce ammonia using the voltage of a standard AA battery. Using the innovation from a renowned Weizmann Institute lab, they’ve already produced ammonia at the benchtop in the first weeks of IndieBio, and they are currently finishing an industrially scalable prototype in time for Demo Day.
Concrete is the third largest greenhouse gas emitter but even less known is how much sand is required to make it. Sand mining is responsible for ecosystem collapse through erosion, water outflows, and biodiversity loss. The shortage of sand has prompted researchers to replace it with more sustainable aggregates, but the previously unsolvable issue is that any additive that is not a cementitious material creates weak points, and results in concrete that fails compressive strength testing.
MAA’VA’s scientific breakthrough is how to incorporate plastic waste into concrete without compromising strength, all while reducing the water usage for concrete production by up to 90%. Their novel building material cures faster, is cheaper to make, is 30% lighter than traditional concrete, is as strong (or even stronger) than normal concrete, and provides a path to store plastic waste into our built environment.
Founded by one of Turkey’s most famous young fashion designers, Gozen Bioworks is a biomaterials company that has created the world’s strongest and softest bio-based animal-free leather to date. Their latest product (Xylozen™) is twice as strong as animal leather, impossibly thin, and soft enough to replace lambskin in luxury tiers.
The breakthrough in their technology is the scalability of their sustainable bioproduction process: while their competitors are investing in how to engineer systems that can distribute nutrients throughout their leather alternative, Gozen has designed their leather with scalability in mind, such that their nutrient delivery system can distribute at micron-scale resolution for almost no additional CAPEX. They are in talks with several luxury brands to position their product as a high-end alternative material.
Reducing our vulnerability to disruptions in our supply of critical metals is important for national security, but the current methods used to mine and extract metals are too toxic, too energy intensive, and damage communities and the environment around the world. Infinite Elements is using synthetic biology to extract, concentrate, and purify rare earth metals found in magnets using a process already found in nature.
Their method is already low-cost, more efficient than traditional extraction methods, and requires no additional energy. Even more value-add will come from the separation, not the extraction: The ability to separate dysprosium from neodymium and praseodymium could fetch five times as much value as the mixture of the three. Their biological approach will be able to separate these metals with solutions no more acidic than lemon juice. Infinite Elements’s opening salvo is to extract and separate the $16 billion worth of rare earth elements from electronic waste and electric vehicle magnets.
Industry leading companies like Impossible, Perfect Day (RebelBio), and EVERY (IndieBio) have shown the powerful commercial appeal of animal-free proteins. Behind this first wave comes a second wave: glycoproteins.
Glycoproteins require precise glycosylations to accurately fold, recognize, and bind – driving functional performance needed in the food industry. To unlock this second wave of animal-free proteins, Asterix Foods is using plant cell culture, because plant cells can easily achieve glycosylations that microbial fermentation is challenged by.
To reach the full potential of RNA therapeutics, we have to understand how the tuning of just 4 ingredients in the delivery vehicle (lipid nanoparticles) can confer transfection and targeting efficiency.
Dandelion is the first to leverage machine learning and biophysics in a systematic attempt to make sense of the chaos between LNP structure and function. They are currently training a generative AI model that can design organ and cell-type specific drug delivery vehicles, with in vivo experiments to validate and course correct the machine learning. The ultimate goal is to deliver more targeted RNA therapeutics with fewer side effects.
The past couple of years, investors have heard that what alternative foods are missing is the fat. Solve the fat, solve the texture, so the logic goes. But real meat, dairy and egg texture comes from the way that fats, proteins, and water are bound together. And great texture makes great taste.
Ingrediome makes this possible with recombinant animal matrix proteins that are radically superior to anything in the market today. And to grow their proteins affordably, they are using an expression system that has 10x less CAPEX than precision fermentation.
Concrete production has quietly doubled in the past 20 years as we are building more and more cities, and with that comes the carbon footprint of cement, which is the glue that binds concrete together. Cement production is 8% of our global GHG emissions, and efforts to “green” the cement-making process have largely been around replacing the cement recipe.
Minus Materials is using air, sunlight, and water, to photosynthetically grow the limestone used to make ordinary portland cement, identical to what is used in the industry. Their special microalgae mineralizes CO2 into limestone, which is a renewable source of limestone compared to the traditional method of blowing up our mountains and surface mining to quarry for the same minerals. Minus’s method can reduce emissions by up to 60%, and even go carbon-negative if combined with other technologies.
The majority of MDF (an engineered wood product) is composed of wood dust and the resin (a plastic) that binds it. The resin is the smallest component of MDF, but the biggest cost driver. Mirá Biotech eliminates the resin so that they can sell MDF for the same price as traditional MDF, but with 3-4 times the industry margin. Their secret is a 260 million-year-old enzyme used to covalently bond lignocellulosic feedstock together, without the need for any resin or chemicals.
The resulting product is 100% made of plant and wood fibers joined via a completely biological polymerization. Mirá’s MDF is a completely safe and more moisture resistant than traditional MDF, which releases volatile gasses into our homes and makes MDF difficult to recycle and biodegrade. They’re scaling up their manufacturing right now in Brazil to produce 20,000 boards a month, and will expand beyond MDF to other types of engineered wood… formaldehyde-free, and resin-free.
Laguna Bio is perfecting an entirely new approach to selectively activate and expand a specific type of T cell, the gamma-delta T (γδ T) cells, to take full advantage of the immune system’s ability to fight solid tumors. The γδ T cells are an obscure but homogeneous population of immune cells that you can count on to kill cancer cells. CAR-γδ T cells have shown success in clinical studies of B-cell lymphoma; Allogeneic γδ T cells have already shown promise in liver and lung cancers.
Building on a collaborator’s positive human data and from live-attenuated Listeria, Laguna is designing a proprietary Listeria to be the safest and most robust yet highly selective activator of these T cells. Increasing response rate of a bispecific antibody drug using Laguna’s listeria would be a major advance for those with solid tumors and represents a multi-billion dollar opportunity.
west~bourne was the first certified zero-waste restaurant in NYC. Now the founder Camilla Marcus is in LA, where she has created the world’s first zero-waste packaged goods brand, sourcing exclusively from farms that deploy regenerative agriculture. Their baking mixes, tasty snacks, and yummy sauces are quickly winning awards and prominent distribution.
As regenerative ag practices increase, farmers don’t want to dump their premium ingredients into the CPG brands of old. With west~bourne, they are creating a “regenerative twin” supply and processing chain.
In theory, the holy grail of diagnostics is simple: a rapid, universal probe that detects hundreds of pathogens at once, with broad coverage that doesn’t compromise sensitivity, uses small sample volume, doesn’t need long wait times from R&D and manufacturing, and is cheap. In practice, it is much harder.
Melio overturns the traditional one-pathogen one-probe paradigm for infectious diseases, and is able to deploy new diagnostic capabilities “over the air” with a few universal probes. In the future, when a new, unknown pathogen emerges, Melio will be able to develop the detection parameters in San Francisco, and then “push” that update out to the rest of the world to all of their devices that work with their existing cartridges in a manner of minutes, without needing to manufacture and distribute new product lines. With their patented method, they’ll also be able to expedite regulatory approval processes.
The secret sauce can be aptly described like this: Interpreting sequence information without sequencing. Melio’s protected approach will also allow the retroactive surveillance of even unidentified pathogens. Their beachhead market is neonates, where 10% of newborns end up in the NICU, and 99% of them receive precautionary but totally unnecessary antibiotic treatment because it takes days to do the blood culture. Melio is allowing doctors to go from sample-to-result in less than 3 hours.
There is a quiet “moon landing” for the stroke survivor community: Reach Neuro’s patented spinal cord stimulation device has been able to restore upper limb function to patients even 9 years after the initial stroke event, immediately restoring their ability to self-direct a spoonful of food into their mouth, and even sign their own name.
Restoring voluntary control of this magnitude has never been achieved before for stroke survivors. The innovation here is that the stimulation target is the sensory neuron, and therefore doesn’t try to force motor neurons to fire involuntarily. The brain is still in full control. Secondly, there is a personalized stimulation protocol for each patient that Reach Neuro has been optimizing in humans for over a year. While the results are incontrovertible, Reach is currently planning to test head-to-head against the best physical therapy regimen available (but we already know how this is going to end).