During the first three days of the Business Acceleration Academy program, the start-up Octarine Bio pivoted their project after an eye-opening boot camp. The biotech start-up is now halfway through the BAA program and they are daily taking huge steps in the development of a new business plan. CEO Nethaji Gallage comes from University of Copenhagen where she has led a research group and she recently co-founded Octarine Bio with Nicholas Milne. They have teamed up with Maria Henriques de Jesus and Victor Forman to drive the company forward.
Nethaji Gallage decided to leave the university to pursue entrepreneurship because she wanted to see her research become applicable. We asked her about her first experiences with BAA.
What happened at the BAA boot camp?
We joined the program with two lead projects in something completely different than what we work with now. We ended up leaving those projects behind after the first few intense days at the BAA boot camp due to feedback and critique from experts. It became clear that the market was not there, however, we had cannabinoids in our portfolio and this market is estimated to be USD 50B in 2030. With help from the BII program team, we decided to pivot our start-up.
How was that experience?
It has been tough. We had already put a lot of resources and energy into our two lead projects, so we had to overcome that hurdle and work even harder to catch up as our cannabinoids project was only at the proof of concept stage.
What problem are you solving?
Today, cannabinoids are mainly sold via plant extraction, but this method is resource intensive and it is difficult to meet the requirements around purity and quality to make a pharmaceutical drug.
Chemical production of cannabinoids has the drawback that iteration from one cannabinoid to the other is slow and costly. On the other hand, natural cannabinoids suffer limitations as pharmaceutical therapeutics due to their chemical nature such as insolubility, psychoactivity and low bioavailability. We solve this by providing an engineered yeast fermentation platform that produces natural and superior cannabinoids.
What do your days look like during the BAA program?
They are long! We knew we would learn a lot about the business side of a start-up, but I am surprised about the speed at which we are accelerating. We could absolutely not have done this at the university without direct access to the experts at BioInnovation Institute. Being here every day and putting all our focus and resources into the company takes us places I did not think was possible in such a short period of time.