Thirteen teams compose this year’s cohort in IndieBio EU. With projects spanning from cancer diagnosis platforms to high-value molecules produced from algae and even industrial waste, this generation promises to bring new ideas and new solutions to their region and the world.
These are six of the promising startups supported through this generation of IndieBio EU:
Chinova Bioworks (Canada)
The team behind Chinova Bioworks is developing carefully constructed mixtures of chitosan to provide custom broad spectrum antimicrobial protection. This technology has a wide range of applications, but for now the company is focusing on the beverage industry by creating a natural, safe and effective antimicrobial agent that protects premium juices and enhances their currently extremely short shelf life.
After their entry to the beverage industry, Chinova intends to broaden to food, cosmetics and eventually medical and pharmaceutical applications. Their ultimate goal? To solve the common problem of microbial contamination by switching the focus from traditional “one size fits all” antimicrobial agents to personalized antimicrobial solutions.
With such ambitious dreams, it comes as no surprise that Natasha Dhayagude, Chinova’s CEO, isn’t new to the startup scene. While working at Planet Hatch, a Canadian accelerator, she had the opportunity to meet many great emerging companies in various industries, until one of them peaked her interest: Mycodev Group.
Their partnership led to Natasha starting a spin off company where she could combine her knowledge and experience in both science and business, and thus Chinova Bioworks was born. Dhayagude notes: “Mixing both my passions helped me create the perfect balanced reaction with the product being a company that I am extremely passionate about.”
Their journey through IndieBio has grown their company by expanding their network and providing a great amount of mentorship and support. “They have high expectations for their companies” says Natasha, “which helps us strive to be the best!”
Spira is working to provide access to food worldwide through tapping into the power of an incredible organism: Spirulina. The company aims to produce a high-protein shake based on this microalgae, leveraging the organism’s impressive 60% protein-by-weight composition.
The use of spirulina for nutrition isn’t exactly new – the Aztecs cultivated it to fuel their empire – but Spira promises to change the current standard through a proprietary photobioreactor system that keeps spirulina fresh, healthy, delicious and yes, alive!
So what future does Spira envision? Elliot Roth, Spira’s CEO, says he’s excited about enabling the jump from yeast-based fermentation economies to microalgae-based economies, the same way it was done earlier by filling the gap from animal based to yeast based economies. “If we are able to harness sunlight, air, water and dirt to produce virtually any variety of protein quickly and efficiently, the possibilities are endless”, says Roth. “Spira is lowering the barrier to that technology.”
Hexafly wants to solve one of aquaculture’s greatest pains to date: the feed fish crisis. This Irish company seeks to produce a sustainable and natural solution to this crisis by looking into new raw materials, such as insects.
Since joining IndieBio EU’s program, the company has been provided with seed funding that helped them kick start production, which coupled with the expert knowledge at their disposal, has proven invaluable. “Having a variety of other start-ups working in close proximity has also allowed for sharing and collaboration and the fostering of community amongst start-ups,” notes Alvan Hunt, CEO of Hexafly, about the program’s key contributions to their development.
As one of the few irish companies at home in the program, Hexafly is representing Irish biotechnology and bioentrepreneurship. The company hopes their innovation will pave the way for development of a wide range of new sustainable, natural resources and a methodology to innovate for their sector and others to come. “We are hopeful that our traction and progress will inspire a fresh crop of Irish and global entrepreneurs, give confidence to young start-ups and instill the idea that anything is possible with the right innovation, work ethic and passion.”
Magenta Biolabs (Costa Rica)
The team behind Magenta Biolabs has found a way to produce anti-aging’s holy grail, hyaluronic acid, from common waste. They achieve this by exploiting the potential of nutrient-rich byproducts from the agriculture industry, recycling the base nutrients and transforming them into hyaluronic acid and other high value molecules.
Magenta is composed of a group of biotechnology engineering students from the Costa Rica Institute of Technology who met at a Startup Weekend event in march last year. After developing a project on pest control and realizing how traditional the pesticide market still is, they decided to change directions. Continuing their interest in the agro industry, they developed a synbio strategy to change the current, not sustainable and main methods to producing highly valued molecules from agro-industry byproducts.
In the words of their founders, rather than a mere startup Magenta Biolabs represents the ideal of how biotechnology should be developed in their native Costa Rica. The sector is growing quickly in their country, with projects from big, traditional companies shining a spotlight in local developments, and so the weight of the responsibility they now carry seems to increase tenfold.
Rafael Lobo, Magenta’s CEO, explains their mission beautifully: “As a team we don’t want just to receive money by selling valued molecules from natural substances or by-products. We want to establish a space, with laboratory and mentorships, where university students can develop their own biotech companies. We all have to help each other and so science and entrepreneurship can be developed quickly and with quality in our country.”
Peer-to-Peer Probiotics (France)
The scientists behind Peer-to-Peer had their first experience in biotech innovation in iGEM 2015, where their nutrient-enriching microorganisms were recognized with a gold medal and even nominated for Best Food and Nutrition Project, among other prizes. The team is now working on yeast and bacteria cultures that produce iron, Vitamin A and Vitamin B in fermented foods.
What prompted this specific alignment for the company? Much of it had to do with the team itself. Sophie Gontier, Peer-to-Peer’s CTO, explains that everyone at the company is passionate about using biotech to solve global issues, especially food and nutrition, and since two members of the team are from South Asia, they had inside knowledge of the region’s issues.
The typical practice of daily rice fermentation to make idlis – a traditional breakfast in Indian households – prompted the idea of engineering the microbiome of fermented foods, so that the fermentative probiotics would produce vitamins in situ directly into the food.
True to their social impact mission, the team aims to create vitamin rich strains that can be easily shared from one household to another in parts of the world were both food fermentation and lack of nutrients are present. As Gontier puts it: “with our approach we are aiming to empower people, so that they can produce their own vitamins at home without changing their lifestyle.”
And of course, where things happen there is always a latin. Crónicas hails all the way from Ecuador, and proposes to develop novel crops that are more resistant to common and virulent infections. This way, Crónicas could even resurrect lost varieties of much-loved fruits and vegetables and, as CEO Juan Robalino explains, “bring traditional foodstuffs into the modern agricultural era.” His working example has been dubbed “the banana apocalypse”: the disappearance of the Cavendish banana could be one of the first food crisis avoided by Crónicas’ developments. Their dream? To enable a future where humanity and nature can grow in partnership through genetic engineering.
With this third cohort being the biggest and most diverse yet (with fellow latinos and all) for IndieBio EU we can rest assured that the resulting initiatives will be a sight to behold. Previous IndieBio EU classes have already fulfilled the incubator’s ambitious motto of changing the world for the better through the creation of real value that anyone would be proud of”. Now we just have to wait and see how this new class takes the world of synthetic biology by the storm, one startup at a time.