Newsletter Editorial, September 2020
In the past years, we have seen a shift in industrial biotech. After decades with a strong focus on enabling cost-competitive production of fuels and chemicals, it has shown to be difficult and expensive to simply substitute existing products despite several success stories.
Addressing the grand environmental challenges has required a shift in focus to completely novel solutions and it is supported by the rapid development in synthetic biology. New technologies such as genome editing have enabled the engineering of microbes and even consortia of microbes to attain desirable properties.
Several very interesting start-ups have emerged from these new technologies. Amongst them are BioPhero, a Danish-based company that offers production of insect sex hormones which enables the elimination of insecticides. Demetrix, a Berkeley-based company that offers production of cannabinoids. Pivot Bio, a Berkeley-based company that offers microbial-based solutions that can replace plant fertilizers, and Antheia a Stanford spin-out that produces novel opioids using engineered yeast.
The main challenge for these start-ups and others to come is that life science investors are not familiar with the translational path of this new industry. It is quite different from the path from academia to the market that we see in the development of novel therapeutics and that makes it a harder case to sell.
The translational path in industrial biotech seems much more similar to the tech industry where the focus is on rapidly developing a minimal viable product and continuously refining it based on consumer inputs while scaling the sales of the product.
That is why it has been possible for some of these successful bioindustrial start-ups to attract significant funding from traditional tech investors and why others in working in this field should consider this opportunity.
At BioInnovation Institute, one of our priorities is to bridge the gap between the new innovative solutions in industrial biotech and the investment community. This month, we incubate the very first bioindustrial start-up in our Creation House program. Welcome, Sundew.
CEO, BioInnovation Institute