Biomanufacturing technologies, adopting modified versions of existing organisms and adapting them to human will, have evolved from the science fiction world into a new reality.
In the startup landscape, companies start to make synthetic spider silk or make leather substitutes or meat substitutes or novel chemicals and pharmaceuticals.
All these companies have in common that they need to be able to quickly work with different organisms and processes to cultivate them, so their visions work on a commercial scale – and this is where Culture Biosciences comes in.
The company was founded by the two natives of Chapel Hill, NC, and the Duke Alums Matthew Ball and Will Patrick. The two met at Duke College and worked together in Google's famous Skunkworks department (then known as Google X).
After leaving Google, the company's boss, he landed in MIT's Media Lab, where he was confronted with the work of companies such as Gingko Bioworks in the field of bioproduction and convinced that this would be a transformation of human society.
"I was incredibly inspired by all this. "Says Patrick. "What struck me was that the industry's problem and bottleneck moved from industrial design to scale-up."
The solution to this bottleneck was to make the fermentation process more precise and controlled, Patrick thought. 19659002] Imagine biomanufacturing as a process similar to beer brewing. Organisms sit in a Goo soup, eating some things and excreting others, and all that needs to be controlled. It's one thing to be able to control the growth and extraction of Goo in a test tube, a very different thing that can be done on the order of 100 gallon tanks.
"There are these really challenging aspects of operating bioreactors, sampling and testing and retrieving data," said Patrick. "We've been able to create this infrastructure that we can scale."
The company has built its own hardware – including custom robotics, sensors and networks for its bioreactors that are 250 milliliters in size Big as coconut cans.
"That was the problem we solved with Culture Biosciences," says Patrick. "We do the fermentation in the cloud."
The company, which has just brought $ 5.5 million from investors such as Refactor Capital, and Verily, the life sciences division of Google's parent company, already has over 50 bioreactors going strong quickly rise to 100.
"What we help [customers] makes their R & D throughput much higher," says Patrick.
These customers include companies such as Geltor, the manufacturer of A-products collagen replacement; Modern Meadow, the leather substitute company; and Pivot Bio, which makes agricultural supplements to replace chemical fertilizers.
Not that Refilyor and Refactor are the only two investors impressed by Culture's technology. Section 32, the investment shop founded by former Google Ventures boss, Bill Maris, Y Combinator, BoxGroup, Shana Fisher of Third Kind Venture Capital and Data Collective, is also an investor in the company.
Culture Biosciences actually shares office space Truly, working from the shared offices of this South San Francisco-based company, which was built for life-science start-up companies.
With Culture, the organic manufacturing industry and the investors supporting it, they seem to be learning one of these critical lessons from the recent wave of big bets on biology – in biofuels.
" Many lessons were learned in this first wave of the 2000s," says Patrick. "You have to think about the end. What can these systems actually do from a technical point of view? Replicate these large-scale environments as well as possible in your small laboratory … It's not really important to compete with oil.