Synthetic biology sells picks and shovels for the $4 trillion bioeconomy, and Codon Capital sees this opportunity. Its investments are a who’s who of synthetic biology, including up-and-coming unicorns Pivot Bio, Zymergen, Bolt Threads, and more. Now, Codon Capital and its founder, Karl Handelsman, have attracted new talent. Mitchell Mutz—the accomplished venture investor, biotech serial entrepreneur, and inventor—has departed Roche Venture Fund to join Codon Capital at its San Francisco-based office.
If you follow my column, you know that synthetic biology is a fast-growing field at the forefront of manufacturing. It combines computation, automation, and our ability to read/write/edit DNA to make sustainable, high-performance products with biology. This includes better pharmaceuticals and diagnostics for Covid-19, smart drugs for cancer and diabetes, and products we don’t associate with biotech like cars, sports apparel, and cell phones.
Mutz has firsthand experience in this industry. He was the first employee at Labcyte, a company developing revolutionary lab equipment for scientific research, which two years ago exited with an impressive sale to Beckman Coulter for $310 million. In addition to being Labcyte’s first employee, Mutz also founded Amplyx Pharmaceuticals in 2007, a small molecule therapeutics company that has raised over $140 million in venture financing and recently completed a phase two clinical trial. After three and a half years as senior investment director at Roche Ventures, he’s joining the Codon Capital team, focusing on therapeutics and synthetic biology.
With a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Rochester, experience working in midsize biotech companies, and 36 issued patents, Mutz sees himself as an investor, serial entrepreneur, and inventor. His expertise and long-time connection to Handelsman make him excited about his new role at Codon Capital.
“I’m a huge synthetic biology fan. I’ve been thrilled beyond belief, although we didn’t envision at the time how much Labcyte has become involved with being an engine for synthetic biology,” says Mutz. “I’m very excited to be more active in that space.”
Although the economic outlook is a little more uncertain now, Handelsman sees no need to put his foot on the brake.
Karl Handelsman, founder of Codon Capital and synthetic biology investor, at SynBioBeta.
“Even though it is a time of turmoil, the need for early-stage innovation has never been greater,” says Handelsman. “This is a time when entrepreneurs and investors are stepping up to do even bolder things. It’s a tough time, but it’s a very good time to start things. We need more innovation, and entrepreneurs have a robust desire to build out really important companies.”
What does Codon Capital look for in biotech companies? In a challenging technical and economic landscape, Handelsman says Codon Capital’s investment thesis is simple: “We back great technical teams to make the impossible possible.”
Mutz and Handelsman are not the only ones who see this young industry’s potential: synthetic biology investment has topped $18 billion over the last ten years. Whether it’s improving humans’ lives, sustaining the planet, or capitalizing on the coming bio-industrial revolution, more and more investors see synthetic biology as the ultimate enabling technology of the triple bottom line.
Follow me on Twitter at @johncumbers and @synbiobeta. Subscribe to my weekly newsletters in synthetic biology. Thank you to Stephanie Michelsen for additional research and reporting in this article. I’m the founder of SynBioBeta, and some of the companies that I write about are sponsors of the SynBioBeta conference and weekly digest. Here’s the full list of SynBioBeta sponsors.
Originally published on Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/johncumbers/2020/08/18/more-talent-rushes-to-the-synthetic-biology-gold-mine-venture-capitalist-mitchell-mutz-leaves-roche-to-join-codon-capital/1