CORK, Ireland, May 10, 2017 /SynBioBeta/ — RebelBio, the world’s first accelerator for biotechnology startups, is announcing the launch of a fourth cohort consisting of 15 break-through biotechnology companies from across the world.
Having earned a place in the four-month programme, each startup has garnered an investment of over $100,000, with access to fully equipped labs and office space, and a network of hundreds of mentors. In addition, they have the backing of SOSV–the accelerator VC and highly active investor in synthetic biology–with its global reach and deep expertise. The innovators of the cohort bend and break the rules of the status quo at the cutting edge between biology and technology across different areas of life sciences.
“From identifying new uses for existing drugs with AI, building novel proteins without cells, speeding up cancer lab test from days to hours and taking sexual disease testing from the hospital lab to the home. At the same time, biomimicry-inspired modules with living bacteria, are treating wastewater while generating electricity,”said Bill Liao, Founder of RebelBio and General Partner at SOSV.
The programme harnesses innovation from across the world to build the future – with life itself. It focuses on transforming scientists and technologists into successful entrepreneurs and empowers them to take early-stage innovation from the lab bench to world markets to solve our global grand challenges.
The teams have just completed their business training, which ran during April, to work on their business plans. Now a three-month lab-based accelerator programme in the University College Cork lab will refine their prototypes for product launch. A demo-day showcase, where the startups pitch to selected investors, will be held at the end of July, likely in London, UK.
“It is as exciting today in biology as it was for computers in the early 1980s. Biology is becoming increasingly personalized, digitized and democratized!” said Elsa Sotiriadis, Programme Director of RebelBio.
Machine intelligence to unlock the full potential of drugs
Many drugs are versatile compounds, but clinical trials and approval for new medicines are devastatingly time consuming, cost-intensive and risky. Hailing from Mexico, Spain and the UK, Galactica Biotech has developed a solution using expertise in drug design, machine learning and systems biology. Together, Dr. Jorge Valencia, CEO of Galactica, Dr. Javier Caballero, Dr. Karen Dunn and Dr. Alina Valencia have developed machine learning algorithms to identify potential new treatments for existing drugs.
The process even works backwards to identify new targets for existing drugs, as well as identifying off-target effects for toxicology predictions. Repurposed drugs or biologics have the advantage of reduced development costs and a decreased time to launch to help patients.
Their first project uses a proprietary machine learning algorithm to seek out existing, already approved drugs that have potential to work against a major cancer target. They will offer their technology as a service to pharmaceutical companies.
Diagnostics 2.0: Rapid, portable and personal
Another RebelBio startup is SexPositive, founded by Nico Bouchard and Mary Ward, co-founder of Counter Culture Labs, who are both DIY biomakers from California, US. SexPositive is developing a smart diagnostic device for sexually transmitted diseases, thus enabling rapid, self-testing of sexual health in privacy at the home, without the need for a lab.
On the other hand, OaCP is a university spin-out from Bologna, Italy, founded by Dr. Enrico DiOto and team. Their patented reagents have applications in genomics, such as accelerating the bottleneck of genome sequencing and in vitro diagnostics. Since many diagnostic tests for cancer can take over three days of agonized waiting, OaCP uses a novel reagent which enhances hybridization of nucleic acid probes. As a result, the team’s in vitro diagnostic, or so called ‘liquid biopsy’, reduces this diagnosis time to as little as two hours.
The team already has global distributers lined up, won the Bologna University Entrepreneurial program (UNIBO Launch Pad) and were named one of the best projects in the Silicon Valley Technology Venture Launch Program (TVLP).
Cell-free technologies for the mass market
Dr. Thomas Meany and Ian McDermott are the vision and the hands behind Cell-Free Technologies. Their aim? To break a billion year old processor out of the confinement of the cell! They are developing a rapid-prototyping kit that enables anyone, anywhere to read DNA and write proteins. This could mean making biomolecules, such as insulin or vaccines, in remote locations. Challenges to downstream purification and quality testing remain, but point-of care synthesis of medical compounds could be a promising concept to develop further.
Another exciting application is for consumer biotechnology, where the startup wants to enable users to create biocompatible, safe and fun colours, smells and even glow-in-the-dark ink! Their first product is a simple biologic platform to custom-make, create and build things with life like with lego bricks.
The team envisions a future, where innovative engineering can integrate with our bodies and environment.
“Biological sensors, detectors and processors will be core to this. We are building the tools that will allow innovators from all backgrounds to engineer the materials of the future,“ said Dr. Thomas Meany, Co-founder and CEO of Cell-Free Technologies.
Building the Circular Bioeconomy
Urbanization is a global trend that will change how we live. By 2050, up to 66% of the world’s population will live in cities, according to the United Nations.
“Developing a productive circular economy is imperative to make life more sustainable and resource-efficient. Building cities with biology has already started,“ said Sotiriadis.
For example, NuLEAF Tech is building microbial fuel cells as part of a biologically-inspired hardware module to purify water, treat sewage and generate energy. Biomimetic design and architecture, cellular agriculture and re-wiring cells to recycle (perhaps to degrade plastic) or grow materials are very promising. NuLEAF Tech was born out of the NASA Ames Advanced Studies Lab in 2015, from a focus on biomimetics and clean energy. It was then further developed as DIY biology project in California.
When the team realised the potential of their approach through its industry-competitive technology, they launched a startup now led by the project’s founder Rachel Major. The team is currently testing a first prototype in collaboration with local farmers.
“We foster resource independence and sustainable lifestyles through bio-inspired engineering. Our integrated technology will create purified water and clean energy solutions for agricultural and residential use,”said Rachel Major, founder and CEO of NuLEAF Tech.
RebelBio is a Moonshot Factory, focused on solving global grand challenges with advanced biotechnologies. It is the world’s leading early-stage accelerator and part of SOSV, the accelerator VC. The programme was previously called IndieBio EU and is in its fourth year. The fund has $300 million in assets under management and is the world’s most active investor in synthetic biology (Silicon Republic). SOSV is also running the leading seed-stage accelerator IndieBio SF in San Francisco, US.0