Sugarlogix is reinventing the concept of sugar. The company, founded by Kulika Chomvong and Chaeyoung Shin from UC Berkeley, was part of the IndieBio summer class 2017, which culminated in the 5th Demo Day last week (you can watch their debut presentation below).
Inspired by the fact that the gut microbiome is critical to our overall health, Sugarlogix developed a yeast fermentation process to create sugars with prebiotic functions, and feed the beneficial bacteria living inside the human gut. Their functional sugars promote gut health, enhance the immune system, and reduce inflammation without compromising taste.
Why is synthetic biology such an exciting field to be part of at the moment?
I am always intrigued by the power of nature, particularly microorganisms (for something so small to have such a large impact). It’s amazing to be able to use them as catalysts, especially now that we have tools to precisely modify them however we like. This opens up great opportunities for life-changing products.
Can you tell us about your projects at Sugarlogix and the technology to develop sugars with prebiotic functions?
Sugarlogix recreates a group of complex sugars that are human breast milk’s best kept secret. They’re found only in human breast milk. We finally figured out a way to resynthesize them from scratch to offer their benefits for babies who are not breastfed, and also for adults. We use specially tailored yeast as biological catalysts. We modify them in such a way that they can turn simple sugars into complex human breast milk sugars.
What challenges persist in your field, and what progress has your team – or other peers – made in overcoming them?
One of the big challenges in our field is all of the fear that the public has toward genetically modified organisms. Most of the products are void of live organisms, but from a marketing and sales perspective it is still a challenge to educate the end consumers. What we do is take that consumer mindset into account. It is one of the reasons why our product revolves around yeast, an organism that is well-established in other food applications.
What are the upcoming milestones and long-term priorities for your company?
Our milestones are to scale our optimized process into a pilot scale, manufacture, and ship our first batch next year. In the long term, we plan to extend the benefits of human breast milk sugars to those who need them the most.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other budding young biotech entrepreneurs?
Find a co-founder that helps push you and the company forward. Someone you won’t be afraid to disagree with, but also listen openly to. They will be the foundation of the team you build and the direction you take. I’m very lucky to have such a great one!
What are you most looking forward to at SynBioBeta SF 2017?
Meeting other great entrepreneurs, field experts, and tech veterans.0