Category Archives: Biosciences

Calysta Raises a $40 Million Series D, but is it Targeting the Right Market?

What They Said

On May 1, 2017, start-up Calysta (client registration required) announced it closed its $40 million Series D round, led by Mitsui & Co., Temasek, Pangaea Ventures, and Cargill. This follows the company’s $30 million Series C in February 2016, led by strategic partner Cargill. Calysta developed a fermentation process to produce a bacterial protein, branded FeedKind, which it plans to sell to the aquaculture industry as an alternative to fishmeal.

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There is extreme inconsistency and contradiction amongst global regulatory bodies that oversee biotechnologies, particularly around regulations pertaining to genetically modified organisms (GMO) and genetic engineering (GE). GE technologies like CRISPR-Cas9 and TALENs are gaining popularity, but fractured regulations are holding many of these technologies back from commercialization. Continue reading

How The North Face and Coca-Cola Incorporate Bio-Based Materials Into Consumer Products

A new generation of consumers demand sustainability. In response, multinational corporations are increasingly integrating bio-based materials and chemicals into products as a way to market a more sustainable brand. Business savvy leaders will first target opportunities where bio-based materials & chemicals have a clear advantage over incumbents in performance, but most are stumped by where to start in the value chain. Continue reading

How to Build a Successful Precision Ag Platform

The integration of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) with agricultural machinery catalyzed the digitization of farms in the early 2000s, enabling farmers to visualize yield variation within their fields. Since then, the definition of digital ag has evolved to include features beyond just basic yield mapping, such as variable rate prescriptions, irrigation guidance, seed variety benchmarks, and pest outbreak alerts. Decision support features abound, but the present state of the industry is fragmented. Most developers are start-ups who provide one aspect of decision support, and their solutions work in silos alienated from the rest of farm operations. Continue reading

Lux Ranks Three Potential Bioplastics for Building LEGO’s 2030 Sustainable Brick

At the recent World Bio Markets conference in Amsterdam, LEGO Director in Materials Department Søren Kristiansen said the company has been making slow but steady progress toward its goal of making its LEGO bricks from sustainable materials by 2030. Søren described a handful of properties required by a new material, including strength, clutch power (“ability for bricks to snap together tightly while also being easy to separate”), and color fastness (resistance to fading) that match those of LEGO’s currently used acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). However, while LEGO mentioned that it is working with various partners to develop a new polymer, the company did not hint at what materials it was testing. Given Lux’s projected growth of the biopolymer market anticipated over the next decade (see the report “Global Biopolymer Outlook 2026: Forecasting Growth in the Next Decade” [client registration required]), we decided to highlight the materials that LEGO is likely considering for its bricks: Continue reading

Bolt Threads Unveils Its First Synthetic Spider Silk Product: Necktie or Noose?

Last week, San Francisco-based Bolt Threads unveiled its first product for customers: a necktie made from its synthetic spider silk fiber. Bolt Threads’ product launch includes 50 limited edition neckties that consumers can purchase through a lottery hosted on the company website. Selected participants will have the opportunity to buy the necktie for $314.15 on March 14.

Bolt Threads uses genetically engineered yeast to produce synthetic spider silk proteins via fermentation. After harvesting, purifying, and drying the protein to a powder, Bolt Threads wet-spins it into a yarn-like fiber. For its necktie, Bolt Threads weaves the yarn into a chevron pattern representing the molecular structure of the spider silk proteins. The company recently built a new 11,000 ft2 fiber spinning facility to scale up its manufacturing capacity. Continue reading

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