From creating synthetic wine to avocados that don't age, here are five startups operating at the crossroads of biology and engineering.
While a number of startups tend to focus on achieving “product-market fit” and innovating around industry norms, there are plenty of companies looking to disrupt the world with their “game changing” technologies and ideas.
In our Game Changers report, we identified 8 categories of innovation that are solving big, important problems. Among these is synthetic biology, a category comprised of companies focused on re-engineering biological products.
We’ve identified 5 startups that are redesigning the way biological products are made — from produce to wine to genes— and the myriad of applications each promises. The top synthetic biology startups are Apeel Technologies, Ava Winery, Caribou Biosciences, Ginkgo Bioworks, and Zymergen. These companies are all in different stages of development with funding ranging from $2.7M to $174M.
Apeel Technologies offers pre- and post-harvest coatings made from 100% plant material that is derived from discarded agriculture by-products. According to Apeel, nearly 40% of fresh produce is lost to spoilage, and the company’s natural coatings boast a 2-5X extension in shelf life.
Total Funding: $7M
Select Investors: Upfront Ventures, Tech Coast Angels
Ava Winery is engineering wine without grapes or fermentation. The startup aims to disrupt high-end wines by offering bottles of chemically identical wine for much cheaper that are made more sustainably (lab-grown wine uses 50X to 100X less water than traditional). Currently, 90% of people fail their blind taste test, and the company has synthesized high-end bottles such as the 1992 vintage of Dom Perignon champagne.
Total Funding: $2.7M
Select Investors: Horizons Ventures
Caribou Biosciences is a developer of cellular gene editing and analysis solutions based on CRISPR technologies. These have promising applications in agriculture, therapeutic development, industrial biotechnology, and biological research.
Total Funding: $41.5M
Select Investors: 5 Prime Ventures, F-Prime Capital, Mission Bay Capital
Employing lab automation software and hardware, Ginkgo reengineers yeast microbes to make biochemical products such as flavors and fragrances to order. Gingko raised a $100M Series C mega-round in June 2016.
Total Funding: $160.8M
Select Investors: Y Combinator, Felicis Ventures, OS Fund, Viking Global Investors
Zymergen engineers single-cell organisms (microbes) to produce industrial chemicals, using robotic lab techniques to supervise thousands of trials. The company raised a $130M Series B mega-round from SoftBank and previous investors in October.
Total Funding: $174M
Select Investors: Data Collective, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, True Ventures, Iconiq Capital
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