Category Archives: Biosciences

Approaching Open Innovation With Open-Mindedness: A Lesson From Bayer’s Partnership With Trana Discovery

Lux recently spoke to Trana Discovery (client registration required) CEO Steve Peterson about the company’s research partnership with the Crop Science Division of Bayer. The partnership was announced in February, with the stated intention of discovering novel fungicides for agricultural pathogens. Trana will use its platform to screen for fungicide candidates, and pass those candidates to Bayer for testing in fungi. Trana’s approach is to use information about an organism’s gene expression machinery to uniquely and specifically target pathogens including viruses, fungi, and bacteria. Its platform is species-agnostic, though the company’s initial development work was in pursuit of treatments for HIV, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VRSA) in humans. The partnership leverages Trana’s screening platform to generate candidate fungicide chemistries with more agility than Bayer could do on its own. Continue reading

Think Piece: Starbucks Gets the Sweet Side of Sustainability With Its New Cascara Latte

Early this year, coffee-chain giant Starbucks unveiled its Cascara Latte as the first new drink of 2017. Cascara, which means “husk” in Spanish, refers to the outer skin and pulp of a coffee cherry. Typically, growers discard the outer coffee cherry after extracting the beans, which are the dark seeds used for espresso and coffee. In some places like Yemen, Ethiopia, and Bolivia, local farmers dry the husks to make tea, but Starbucks takes its own spin on reusing the coffee waste to incorporate the unique flavors into a specialty drink (see figure below).

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Synthetic Biology Firm Ginkgo Bioworks Acquires DNA Synthesis Provider Gen9

Recently, Ginkgo Bioworks (client registration required) announced the acquisition of DNA synthesis provider Gen9 (client registration required) for an undisclosed amount of cash and stock. Ginkgo will integrate into its existing Bioworks facilities Gen9’s BioFab platform, which includes its chip-based oligo synthesis process, Agilent Technologies’ Oligonucleotide Library Synthesis (OLS) pool, and proprietary software/informatic tools for DNA design and error correction. Along with all related equipment and intellectual property (IP) of up to 125 patents pending, the acquisition also includes Gen9’s full-time staff on production and R&D, but not the management, sales, and customer service teams. Continue reading

Protix Biosytems Enters Joint Venture With Process Engineering Giant Buhler, Signaling Hope for Scalable Insect Production

Through a joint venture, Buhler, the well-known Swiss food and feed process engineering company, and Protix Biosystems (client registration required), a start-up focused on insect production, have founded Buhler Insect Technology Solutions with the goal of developing scalable insect rearing and processing solutions for the food and feed markets. Within this joint venture, Protix Biosystems brings nearly a decade of insect-rearing expertise, while Buhler brings the expertise of building processing plants on a global scale. Continue reading

The BioAg Alliance Reveals First Product; How They Plan to Sell Is More Interesting Than the Product Itself

What They Said

Just last month, in December 2016, the BioAg Alliance announced it had co-developed its first product, a corn inoculant seed treatment, branded Acceleron B-300 SAT. Monsanto and Novozymes have not disclosed many details about the inoculant, other than that it contains a fungal species isolated from soil, and field trials of the inoculant in corn has demonstrated an average yield increase of 4 bu/ac in the U.S. Monsanto will apply the product to all of its 2017 corn hybrids, including its DEKALB and Channel brands. Monsanto will pre-coat seed before shipping it to retailers and farmers, calling the treatment the first “upstream” corn inoculant ever developed. Monsanto already provides downstream seed treatments through its Seed Applied Solutions division. Farmers can choose to coat corn, soy, and cotton seed with insecticide, fungicide, and nematicide (see figure).

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2016 BBMC Roundup and What You Can’t Miss Going Into 2017

2016 was a turning point for the bio-based materials and chemicals (BBMC) space as the industry realigned to sustained low oil prices, shifting consumer demand, and emerging regulatory drivers. In our latest report, we highlight the big bets investors placed in 2016 (client registration required). To emphasize these trends, we round-up some of the major announcements throughout the year and summarize them into the three key themes outlined below: Continue reading

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

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

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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DuPont Trims Down Herbicide Portfolio to Appease Antitrust Concerns

DuPont is reportedly going to sell off some of its herbicides to assuage antitrust concerns, pending its upcoming merger with Dow AgroSciences. No specific herbicide portfolios or buyers are announced as of now, but details are likely will be released soon if Dow AgroSciences and DuPont hope to close the merger by the end of 2016.

We can expect that DuPont will divest one of its older herbicide portfolios, rather than letting go of one of its newer herbicide brands like its newly announced FeXapan brand. Other possible brands that DuPont may divest include its Breakfree and Cinch herbicides. These two brands of herbicides come in various formulations, some of which contain active ingredients atrazine, acetochlor, and S-metolachlor. Breakfree and Cinch target common grasses and broadleaf corn weeds, including foxtail and pigweed. The Breakfree and Cinch brands comprise eight out of 33 of DuPont’s current herbicide products approved for use in the U.S. targeting corn and soybean weeds. These products may be likely targets for divestiture because the safety of one active ingredient present in some formulations, atrazine, has recently been questioned by several regulatory agencies. In September of 2016, the U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) released a draft ecological risk assessment recommending the ban of atrazine. Similarly, California listed atrazine as a reproductive toxin in July 2016. The changing regulatory attitudes surrounding atrazine may push DuPont toward divesting this specific technology, especially while the company is under pressure to trim its herbicide business. Continue reading