It was pure coincidence, but months before the pandemic took hold around the world, IndieBio — a startup accelerator devoted to startups using biology to solve large problems — expanded its remit, adding a New York arm to the operations it was already running out of San Francisco. Of course, it’s because of what the world endured that more attention than ever is being paid to life sciences startups, which is why we thought readers might want a sneak peek at the newest batch of startups that IndieBio NY is preparing to introduce to investors in roughly one month.
If you’re a founder or VC or simply an interested industry observer looking for insights into what’s bubbling up in a range of related areas, including agriculture, diagnostics, carbon and methane upcycling, and cancer therapeutics, check out what the nine teams have been working on.
Some of IndieBio’s previous breakout startups include the cultivated meat company Upside Foods (it raised $400 million last year led by two sovereign wealth funds at a billion-dollar-plus valuation) and MycoWorks, a company making leather out of fungi and that closed a $125 million Series C round last year at an undisclosed valuation. Another company in IndieBio’s portfolio to gain traction is NotCo, an outfit now also backed by Jeff Bezos and Kraft Heinz that licenses its tech to food and beverage manufacturers which want to “veganize” some of their products.
Here’s that quick snapshot of each:
FREZENT Biological Solutions
FREZENT says it’s developing a novel class of bispecific antibodies for targeting dormant cancer cells that have survived chemotherapy and may cause recurrence. Its approach is to block metabolism in dormant cancer cells to prevent their reactivation and survival. The team is currently focused on monoclonal antibody discovery and proof-of-concept studies. More here.
Xias Bio Limited
According to Xias Bio, the three most important proteins in skincare and haircare products—collagen, keratin, and elastin—typically come from bovine hides, chicken feathers, and meat processing byproducts (blech). Given rising concerns over greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, and deforestation, a new generation of cosmetics consumers wants to see the industry replace those animal proteins with sustainable alternatives and Xias Bio is catering to them. Specifically, it has developed a molecular platform for creating multi-functional, animal-free proteins to license. L’Oreal is already buying what it’s selling; later, say the startup’s founders, the idea is to move beyond cosmetics and replace animal proteins in a host of other areas, including in pharmaceuticals and the food industry.
Earnest Agriculture says it has designed a microbial consortium that protects crops against diseases, pests, and drought while improving soil health. Applied as a seed coating, those patented microbes can boost yields by 7x, reduce synthetic chemical use, and make crops more resilient to climate change, claims the outfit. More here.
BioMetallica’s pitch is that tens of millions of tons of electronics are discarded every year, much of it incinerated, with billions of dollars of recoverable materials up in smoke in the process — not to mention the release of toxic fumes. The startup’s eco-friendly solution for recovering some of these rare metals — palladium, platinum, and rhodium — is through genetically modified bacteria that produce biogenic chemicals that separate palladium group metals (PMGs) from e-waste, including spent catalytic converters.
Afynia has created and patented a blood test for diagnosing endometriosis early that returns a result in days and — says the startup — will be offered through clinics and home collection kits beginning next year. As with many women’s health startups, the team’s endometriosis test is just the beginning, if all goes as planned. The idea is to build a digital platform that will provide diagnostics, virtual care, and prescription deliveries for endometriosis and other conditions. More here (note that the startup was originally named AIMA and hasn’t refreshed its site just yet).
To meet EU emissions standards, cargo operators are already ordering methanol-powered ships, but green methanol can’t compete with oil on price, meaning adoption is slow going. CarbonBridge‘s solution to the challenge is what it describes as a low-heat, low-pressure microbial process that upcycles carbon dioxide and methane into liquid methanol using a bioreactor. More, it says, it can source the gasses inexpensively from over 16,000 wastewater treatment facilities in the U.S. that normally burn them off.
Aequor says it has discovered marine microbes that produce molecules that eliminate bacterial slime in minutes, and that applied in water treatment facilities, its liquid concentrate can reduce conventional chemical usage by 90%, lower energy usage by up to 15%, and prevent slime from clogging filters and causing shutdowns. The bigger ambition is to reduce the costs and environmental impact of water treatment while enabling greater access to safe, affordable drinking water. More here.
Farmers spend nearly$230 billion every year on herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers designed to increase crop yields, but the unintended consequences are well-documented and, well, not good. Unibaio says it has a better alternative. According to the company, it has developed a natural microparticle that can supercharge biological crop protectants by enabling them to penetrate plants more efficiently and reduce the amount of conventional chemical products needed by up to 80%.
Discarded food accounts for 8-10% of greenhouse gas emissions, as the founders of Terra Bioindustries will tell you; it’s why the company developed a platform for upcycling brewer’s spent grain, a beer byproduct that is often difficult to sell. It works via a low-energy enzymatic process that separates the grain into edible sugars and proteins that are then sold to food manufacturers and precision fermentation companies. By using commercial equipment found in most food processing facilities, adoption can be inexpensive, too. More here.