Synthetic Biology Advances With Robotics and Machine Learning

Synthetic biology (“synbio”) initially attracted high-profile venture capitalists and corporate partnerships for its products – bio-based chemicals and alternative fuels, for example. Today, synbio companies tools are attracting attention as well – from lab automation like DNA synthesis-as-a-service, to software (i.e. BioCAD and BioLIMS), and new genetic engineering tools (i.e. CRISPR). By integrating machine-learning, robotics, and high-throughput engineering, companies like Ginkgo Bioworks and Zymergen are helping customers dramatically reduce the timeline for developing new molecules in the flavor and fragrance, food ingredient, medical, agricultural, and specialty chemicals markets – a key reason that those two startups each raised more than $100 million in 2016. This podcast highlights Lux’s thoughts on the impact of these tools in and beyond in synbio, and the rapidly developing ecosystem of startups within the space.

To listen to the podcast, click here.

By: Mark Bünger and Victor Oh

NVBOTS and Cincinnati Incorporated Announce SAAM, BAAM’s Little Brother

What They Said

NVBOTS (client registration required) and Cincinnati Incorporated recently announced the Small Area Additive Manufacturing (SAAM) industrial 3D printer as a complement to Cincinnati Incorporated’s Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) system (client registration required). Cincinnati Incorporated will handle sales distribution, and support for the SAAM, while NVBOTS provides the printer and associated NVCloud software. The SAAM is a small build volume fused filament fabrication (FFF) 3D printer that is positioned as an automated prototyping tool for designers and engineers looking to print designs using BAAM amongst other manufacturing tools.

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Adidas Is Latest to Spin New Product Using Synthetic Spider Silk With Concept Shoe

Last week at the 2016 Biofabricate conference in New York City, Adidas unveiled its Futurecraft Biofabric concept shoe, which uses Germany-based AMSilk’s Biosteel® synthetic spider silk fiber as the upper mesh. Adidas expects to release the performance shoe to market next year, according to Adidas’ James Carnes (VP of Global Brand Strategy), but the first product will be in “limited quantities” and at a “higher price.” After the initial launch, Adidas also plans to expand the product line using AMSilk’s Biosteel® with other shoe models or possibly even apparel. Notably, for AMSilk, the Adidas partnership follows a series of major announcements this year including signing four sales distribution agreements with RAHN, Zeus QuÍmica, Biochim, and Hanjoo, as well as raising additional capital to increase production capacity and expand product development. Continue reading

Defining the Spectrum of Personalized Nutrition Solutions

Personalized nutrition has become a buzzword in the food industry, with startups rushing to provide solutions and incumbents pondering how to prepare for this shift in industry focus. Recently, large companies have joined in, with Campbell’s Soup Company staking a claim in this space through its $32 million investment in the personalized nutrition startup Habit (see the recent Lux Spotlight article “Case Study: Campbell’s Soup Invests $32 Million in Personalized Nutrition Startup Habit”). However, with all the hype surrounding personalized nutrition, the field remains vague and undefined. We tend to think of personalized nutrition as a single extreme solution – a perfectly tailored diet for each individual that helps obtain optimal health. However, in reality, personalized nutrition encompasses a wide range of products and solutions that offer individualized diet recommendations to the consumer at varying levels. To make sense of the space, Lux categorizes personalized nutrition solutions on two axes: recommendation frequency and personalization specificity (see the figure below).

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Fulcrum Puts All the Pieces Together in Preparation for 2018 and Beyond

Last week, BP announced its $30 million investment in Fulcrum BioEnergy. In addition to an equity stake in the company, BP secured an offtake agreement of 500 million gallons over 10 years, and Air BP will become a distributor and supplier of Fulcrum’s biojet fuel in North America. This is just one of numerous announcements from Fulcrum, as its momentum has remained strong and kept it in the headlines over the past 18 months (client registration required for both). Fulcrum has put in place all the strategic pieces along its entire value chain, securing a strong foundation as it competes with many of its peers vying for position in the biojet fuel market. Below, we visualize Fulcrum’s strategic partnerships as it prepares its 10 million gallons per year (MGY) Sierra Biofuels Facility planned for operation in 2018.

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What Went Down at the Artificial Intelligence (AI) World Expo

Lux Research recently helped co-chair the Artificial Intelligence (AI) World Executive Summit in San Francisco, CA. During the first day alone, we had the opportunity to hear from a diverse set of speakers, each esteemed in their own right, on their thoughts on artificial intelligence and how some of them were applying such technologies in their respective fields. Two sessions, in particular, did a fantastic job at providing two distinct perspectives on artificial intelligence that serve as sound guidelines for how enterprises should approach the hype surrounding the field. They are each summarized below: Continue reading

Walmart Introduces Playbook for Sustainable Packaging: Lux Picks the Best Plays

Walmart recently released its “Sustainable Packaging Playbook,” where it provides best practices for suppliers looking to improve and innovate sustainable packaging. It emphasizes that these sustainable packaging best practices are meant to compliment business needs, which is to say going “green” does not mean sacrificing performance. Walmart highlighted three innovation pillars in its playbook:

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Alert, Coach, and Motivate: How Digital Technologies Change Consumer Behavior

Many organizations today understand that the digital transformation will impact every aspect of their businesses: how they sell, operate – even how they acquire talent (see the September 1, 2016 Lux Quarterly). Some have also come to realize that digital technology can impact how organizations understand consumers, engage with them, and change their behavior. While digital tracking of everyday activities is common, like activity tracking, the ability to engage with and change consumer behavior in the long-term is more valuable, but more difficult. Even the biggest of players in the digital space have failed to crack the code for how to do this successfully. Fitbit, for example, had long been criticized for having a third of its consumer base abandon their devices after a few weeks. The inability to change consumer behavior is not without repercussions, either, as earlier this month, for example, Fitbit’s shares plummeted 30% following low Q3 earnings. Continue reading

In Pursuit of Profitability: A Case Study in Understanding the Growth Strategy Behind Two Graphene Market Leaders

Overview

In the last six months, graphene nanoplatelet (GNP) companies have raised over $18 million in financing. In that same time period, leading supplier XG Sciences filed for a self-underwritten initial public offering (IPO) and has sold $2.6 million worth of stock, while publicly-traded Haydale acquired two companies after raising approximately $3.5 million from additional stock offerings. These recent financing events suggest that GNP companies still struggle to profit from the technology, yet investor faith still remains in the greater market opportunity. To better understand the strategy and motivations behind two of the largest players driving the GNP space, Lux interviewed Philip Rose, CEO of XG Sciences, and Ray Gibbs, CEO of Haydale. Continue reading

Execution Is Key as ExxonMobil’s Academic R&D Partnerships Present Numerous Opportunities in Scaling Emerging Technologies Outside of Its Core Competencies

In an era of cheap oil and falling profits, the oil and gas industry must prepare itself for the future. The energy landscape is quickly evolving with the emergence of potentially disruptive technologies and regulatory pressure to reduce carbon emissions. One strategy the oil and gas industry has taken in developing novel technologies is through corporate venture capital (CVC). Earlier this year, we analyzed CVC portfolios in the oil and gas industry and found that ExxonMobil is absent with no public indications it will start in the foreseeable future. Continue reading