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Class 14
IndieBio San Francisco - Batch 14
CEO Luis Valencia
"There are vast untapped domestic lithium reserves in saline groundwater that is unusable for agriculture and human consumption. By harnessing biology's ion chemistry we can extract enough lithium to fuel the renewable energy revolution."
Alkali Labs has raised $275,000 from SOSV IndieBio.
Unlocking domestic lithium supply with biology
A typical oil well can discard up to $40 worth of lithium-rich brine for every $100 of crude oil it produces.

Oil wells are not the first thing you think of when you think of lithium sources, but pumping oil out of the ground actually requires a lot of water, either to fracture the rock or to push out the oil of old wells. That water is often locally sourced from deep underground, and has to be properly disposed of and reinjected back down. Coincidentally, this water also contains a lot of lithium, and is a ripe opportunity for on-shore lithium mining, if there were a safe and non-toxic approach to extracting the lithium…

Alkali labs was founded by a duo of synthetic biologists, Jacob Roberts and Luis Valencia, to engineer a scalable, decentralized method to extract lithium from oil field brine using safe, biological processes. They can sequester the lithium (or other minerals of interest) in ways that are not economically feasible–nor environmentally allowable–with conventional methods. Alkali’s solution is to tackle these challenges from the ground up, starting with the most scalable microbes, and engineering scalable bioprocesses on top. 

CEO Lewis Dutel
“We don’t have to wait for 2035 for a new grid to support electric vehicles. We don’t have to wait until 2050 for Sustainable Aviation Fuel. Via Fuels’ technology can impact climate change in a big way – today. With existing infrastructure, existing jets and vehicles.”
Via Fuels has raised $525,000 from SOSV IndieBio and the Genesis Consortium
Filling the gap between fossil fuels of today and the eFuels of tomorrow
The tax credits and incentives for Sustainable Aviation Fuel can be $5.30 to $7.30 a gallon

Ethanol may be 10% of every gas tank, but the economics of making ethanol have become marginal. VIA Fuels enables ethanol plants to use their existing infrastructure and feedstocks to make much more valuable and versatile drop-in, carbon neutral fuels.

Unlike ethanol, VIA Fuels can be blended at higher rates to create renewable fuels for use in today’s engines due to a 30% greater energy density. With eligibility for Alternative Fuel Credits, VIA can target transportation decarbonization at the fuel source enabling the decarbonization of vehicles on the road today. Lastly, they are simple to include in jet fuel, while ethanol must undergo an expensive and inefficient conversion.

CEO Andrew Gray, PhD
"Macrophages are so good at homing to tumors that they end up being 50% of the tumor mass. We're exploiting that to infiltrate tumors and deliver our biological drugs behind enemy lines."
Karma has raised $1.2 million from SOSV IndieBio, Khosla Ventures, Tuesday Capital, and other angel syndicates.
Delivering cytokines and other biologicals locally, exactly where they're needed
Metastatic cancer can be cured by cytokine immunotherapies, but only for a lucky few (about 7% of patients). Karma is making these medicines safe and effective for the other 93%.

Karma Biotech is an oncology company targeting solid tumors, starting with colorectal cancer. Their technology aims to deliver cytokines and other biologicals, such as IL-15, specifically to tumor and metastatic sites, avoiding the dangers of systemic toxicity. This localized IL-15 will turn cold tumors hot, allowing the body to clear the cancer. 

The founders at Karma rationally designed super stable LNPs that are effective at delivering both DNA and/or RNA without electroporation. Their proprietary LNPs efficiently transfect macrophages in the spleen – which then home to tumor sites and produce the payload (e.g., IL-15) at the tumor microenvironment. This is one of the most elegant methods we’ve seen at fighting hard-to-penetrate solid tumors. While they’re quickly advancing through their own internal drug program, they can also generate some early revenue by partnering out with other pharma companies who have already been impressed by Karma’s latest data package (summer 2023).

CEO Raanan Shelach
“It has been incredibly easy to hire the best talent to the team after they’ve seen the data on how energy efficient our process is.”
Carbonade has raised $1.2 million from SOSV IndieBio, the Genesis Consortium, E44, Arc Impact, and SIG.
One-step direct air capture and utilization
Liquid direct air capture (DAC) systems can require up to 900˚C of heat to release the purified CO2 that was captured.

Carbon capture, utilization and storage has a dirty little secret that divides its proponents and opponents: capturing CO2 out of the air is cheap, but then releasing it from its capture solvent into a purified tank is up to 10x more energetically and financially costly. This is one of the reasons why opponents argue we’ll never remove enough carbon cheaply enough to be economically viable. 

Carbonade can put this argument to rest, because they’ve figured out how to skip the expensive “releasing” step, and go straight to utilization. How? Because their electrochemical cell operates at the lowest ever recorded energy required for “cracking the CO2 molecule.” The technology comes out of Professor Ronny Neumann’s lab at the Weizmann Institute, where they’ve developed a proprietary electrocatalyst that transforms the CO2 while it’s still in the capture solvent. So in one step, Carbonade captures the CO2 from ambient air into its solvent, and immediately converts it to a usable carbon substrate (e.g., carbon monoxide), while also producing green hydrogen, all without having to purify the CO2 and ship it to another “utilization” provider. This is all to make products like sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs) for jets, a topic the CEO knows a thing or two about, as a retired F-16 pilot.

CEO Benjamin Slotnick
“Carbon removal math can’t just fixate on the marginal cost of CO2 removal. The industry has to take capex into account too.”
Lillianah has raised $525,000 from SOSV IndieBio and the Genesis Consortium
Carbon removal with a dual purpose
430 locations around the world desperately need remediation from algae blooms feeding off excess river nutrients.

Four years ago, Ben Slotnick was on the technical evaluation team for one of the largest carbon-capture-and-storage projects in the world, pumping CO2 under the North Sea. He came to the conclusion that spending over $1 billion in capex before sequestering any CO2 was the wrong path. And it was the wrong way to use our oceans. 

Lillianah is an extremely capex-light system, doing natural phytoplankton dispersal in the Louisiana bayou. In just six days, these phytoplankton multiply 5,000 times, storing and sinking organic carbon off the continental shelf. Each daily phytoplankton dispersal can store 1,000 tons of CO2. What’s more, Lillianah’s data shows a sudden revival of the hypoxic dead zones in these same waters, restoring marine life. Plans are underway in two additional locations.

CEO Juan Pablo Robles, PhD
“Discovery and therapeutic targeting of new angiogenesis mediators is absolutely necessary to improve treatment of blinding eye diseases.”
ViAn Therapeutics has raised $275,000 from SOSV IndieBio.
See beyond anti-VEGF therapies
The current $12B market for anti-VEGF in the eye is leaving half the market ($10B) on the table because up to 50% don’t respond to the current standard of care

Vascular endothelial Growth factor, also known as VEGF, is primarily responsible for forming and maintaining new blood vessels. Under abnormal conditions, especially in the eye, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy, it causes the formation of abnormal blood vessels, which can bleed, leak, and eventually lead to scar formation and vision loss. Anti-VEGF therapy, which is administered by injection into the back of the eye, is the standard of care for severe retinal diseases, especially wet AMD. These therapeutics command a market over $12B today just for the eye alone, but those patents will soon expire, and pharma is scrambling to remix and extend their existing patents. 

ViAn Therapeutics has patented a highly potent and stable anti-angiogenic peptide that is already found in our body. The peptide is so small compared to the standard-of-care antibodies, it can be developed as a simple topical eye drop for ophthalmology indications. Not only will this enable a larger segment of AMD patients to be treated much earlier in the disease (and thereby avoid progression to severe disease), this opens up a vast market opportunity in mild to moderate diabetic retinopathies and other retinal vein occlusive diseases where a topical treatment will be highly preferred over retinal injections. ViAn Tx has already demonstrated high penetrance into the back of the eye as an topical formulation, and are putting together a pre-IND package now to further prove its safety and efficacy in rabbits.

CEO Simardev Gulati
"Unlike plastic fibers made from petroleum, proteins are inherently green, so they’ll biodegrade. We’re able to treat proteins like conventional thermoplastics, making proteins the new oil.”
Bloom Labs has raised $2.6 million from SOSV IndieBio, Plug and Play Ventures, WSGR, and other angel syndicates.
Spinning proteins to biodegradable textiles
8 millions of tons of structured proteins are discarded every year when they can be turned into high quality textile fibers

Despite a decade of innovation into new eco-friendly textile fibers, none of them work on the huge melt-spun fiber machines that enable low costs. 70% of the fibers used by the apparel industry are made by melt-spinning. The result is that virtually all fiber innovation is hindered by costs 2x to 3x higher than petroleum-based yarns. 

Bloom Labs is the first startup to enable a recyclable fiber which is meltable and spinnable on traditional machines. This is a huge innovation that could help textile and apparel companies finally use eco-fibers across their entire portfolio of products. Bloom Labs’ fibers are recyclable because they are converted to pellets from a waste protein, of which there is nearly infinite supply. Bloom is funded by the National Science Foundation, and the United Soybean Board, and are now in discussions with NASA to create a circular packaging material that can be 3D printed for reuse to enable the circular economy in space. 

CEO Laura Hsieh, PhD
“Our platform can have the scalability of a targeted screen, but also the biological context of a phenotypic screen. The best of both worlds.”
TippingPoint Biosciences has raised $755,000 from SOSV IndieBio, MBC Biolabs, American Cancer Society BrightEdge, and F&F.
First company to drug whole chromatin states
Diffuse pontine intrinsic glioblastoma (DIPG) makes up about 75-80% of all pediatric brainstem cancers

A wide number of cancers exhibit misregulated genome packaging at the chromatin level. If chromatin that should be tightly condensed, becomes loosely packed (or vice-versa), the normal brakes on cell growth aren’t operant, leading to uncontrolled cell growth. Being able to regulate and control the chromatin state has been a high-value target for oncology. 

Coming from Geeta Narlikar’s lab at UCSF, TippingPoint has a proprietary platform that makes genome packaging states druggable. Specifically perturbing a disease causing chromatin state is difficult with targeted drug discovery platforms because they don’t provide enough biological context and the alternative of phenotypic screening can be incredibly resource intensive. TippingPoint’s platform addresses these limitations by recreating the biological context of cancer driving chromatin states in a controlled, cell-free environment. Instead of targeting a single factor, TippingPoint’s platform focuses on disrupting or restoring the unique protein-protein networks that package cell genomes, using phase-separated condensates as a readout. Unlike individual factors that may have similar functions in both healthy and diseased cells, the DNA packaging networks in cancer cells are significantly different, and can be exploited to enhance drug specificity and limit drug resistance.

CEO Viktoria Kanar
"We believe in a more scalable and local approach — the Re-Fresh Open Loop - upcycling trash to trusted industrial products and commodities."
Re-Fresh Global has raised $1.2M from SOSV IndieBio, Genesis Consortium, Vision Lab, Serpentine.vc and other angel syndicates.
Of the 100 billion garments produced each year, 92 million tons end up in landfills. That’s the equivalent of a garbage truck full of clothes ending up on a landfill site every second.

In America alone, an estimated 12 million tons of textile waste – equivalent to 85% of all textiles – end up in landfills on a yearly basis, because recycling is not trivial. There are almost two dozen methods to recycle specific fiber types, ONLY if the garment waste happens to be 100% of a single fiber. These are scaling very slowly, because almost all the waste is highly diverse, with blended fibers and different materials used in the same garment.  

Re-Fresh offers circularity to mixed textile waste, by repurposing them into a variety of second lives, such as bioethanol, textile pulp, and nanocellulose. Re-Fresh uses proprietary chemical and mechanical processes to transform textile waste into high-quality materials at scale. Furthermore, their methods scale down to medium-sized businesses, reaching customers who’ve never had the resources to install recycling systems. In 2021, Re-Fresh conducted a pilot with the city of Kfar Saba in Israel, where they collected used textile waste from a hospital in the city. In less than two weeks, Re-Fresh demonstrated that they could reuse 38% of the collected deadstock and a full 60% were upcycled.

CEO Silvana Spinelli, PhD
“We must learn from what nature provides. But even our fresh foods, eaten within hours or days, are missing these supernutrients. All of our dried herbs, all of our traditional medicines, and all of our supplements, are missing this link to true freshness.”
Kresko RNAtech has raised $275,000 from SOSV IndieBio.
A Super Fresh Take on Functional Nutrition
99.9% of bioactive RNAs are lost in our foods shortly after harvest, and we know they can be extremely beneficial to our health.

We all know that beneficial nutritional elements are lost when fresh food is processed. But something is lost even in the first half hour of being picked from the stems. Present are supernutrients which rapidly degrade if not eaten immediately – in all our fresh fruits, veggies, herbs and roots, and even in milk. 

Kresko is the first company in the world to isolate these supernutrients, discover their functionality, and stabilize them into extracts. These supernutrients are not broken down by digestion, and lab assays show remarkable impact on many of our cell types. Some are anti-inflammatory, some alter how lipids are stored, and whether we burn sugar or turn it into fat. Some reduce cortisol, some boost serotonin. They can improve and regulate our gut health.