At BioInnovation Institute, we support early-stage life science start-ups that contribute to improving planetary health for the benefit of people and society. But which trends do we see in the field? We asked Venture Lab Lead, Christian Brix Tillegreen and Business Developer, Maria Henriques de Jesus.
Which trends and innovative solutions do you see that can solve current issues related to microbial fermentation?
In broad terms, fermentation is getting to a commercial-stage where you see a lot of breakthrough companies getting to a reasonable cost window of fermented products, especially in the alternative protein market. However, many of the novel companies and the more established players still have issues getting their organisms to perform even better at scale. One way of scaling manufacturing would be to add capacity, but building larger fermentation plants costs a lot and is not an option for many. One innovative company in this space is Enduro Genetics, which works with an exciting technology that helps cells to perform at a high level. Their technology allows them to inhibit other proteins or side activities to grow, so the cells increase their chances of performing at a high level in a fermentation process.
For decades, bioindustrial technologies/companies have been challenged by “The Valley of Death” due to issues with upstream and downstream processing when upscaling production. Do you have any examples of how to deftly avoid this?
Another way to look at doing scale-up is to work on a more modular basis. One of our companies, EvodiaBio, is producing monoterpenoids for aroma molecules to replace hops in beer production. The strength of EvodiaBio’s platform is that they can produce these aroma terpenoids in smaller batches at high concentrations and do novel blends. This means that the fermentation cycles and sizes of infrastructure needed are relatively cheap and flexible. That enables companies like this to produce many types of aromas at a commercially relevant cost.
Money is pouring into Carbon Capture Tech. However, the technology faces several design challenges on how to handle impurities, other than Co2, in the flue gas stream and how to handle the large quantities of Co2 formed during fossil fuel combustion. How do you see the carbon capture market and do you have any great examples of exciting technologies in this area?
We see tremendous interest in carbon capture and utilization platform companies these days; some companies are more mature and on a large scale already. However, many companies target large CO2 emitters like concrete plants or similar large factories. Still, we find it interesting that companies like Algiecel are looking at the more decentralized approach where they target small biogas farms or other emission outlets. Algiecel is making smaller modular photobioreactors in containers and using the offset CO2 or methane to capture and feed an algae strain to produce feed, food, or oils. What we find intriguing about Algiecel is its ability to be in the nexus of novel engineering powered by biology using algae.
A lot of innovation also happens when it comes to substituting the use of pesticides with fertilizers used in agriculture. What are still the main obstacles to overcome, and can you mention some examples of the exciting development of all-natural, microbial products to replace current methods using chemical synthesis?
Our agricultural and food systems are under heavy pressure these days, and the demand for high-yield crops is rising rapidly. There is also a big push for organic and locally grown plants, which makes it challenging to meet the demand. One of our companies, BioOmix, is using a method for capturing naturally occurring microbes to meet the need for natural fertilizer, nitrogen fixation, and potential drought. The company has developed a 3D-printed trap where the different microbes compete to see which one is the most relevant and then choose for further cultivation. This approach is scalable because the regulatory pathway is more straightforward and faster. Another feature is when we look at vertical farming, the issue of fungal infection is still present, and here BioOmix’s microbes could be an excellent answer to help.
Cultured meat has several advantages over conventional meat, such as environmental protection, disease prevention, and animal welfare. However, cultured meat manufacturing is still an emerging technology on the rise. What are some of the most interesting innovations/trends right now?
Cultivated meat, clean meat, or stem cell-based meat has been on the horizon for a while now, and we see a massive surge in the number of new companies creating various cell lines. However, the cost of growth media and growth factors for the cultivation is holding the industry back right now.
We just accepted a company Nordic Virtual Pastures. They are focusing on valorizing waste streams from breweries or green biomass and are aiming to create cheaper and better-performing cultivation of stem cells.