“Often, the implication is that everything should be higher,” he tells Nerdshala. “But I think more than that, there are some key theories being proven in the markets,” he says.
Those thesis, which range from the future need for climate and agricultural solutions to the promise of programmable biology, are reflected in Indibio San Francisco new group of companies. We talked to Bronson about what big scientific ideas unite these companies, and ultimately, what key elements sealed the deal for Indibio.
Below you’ll find a quick description of each company, and a “cleaner” factor that sets it apart. (Note: This cohort represents IndieBio’s San Francisco-based cohort. The New York-based cohort will debut on January 27).
soliom – Soliom wants to reinvent the way we develop sunscreen. The team is working on a protein engineering-based process to make sunscreens from basic ingredients such as plant proteins. This new approach would, ideally, help wean the market away from sunscreens that have been shown to harm the environment, particularly Coral reefs and other marine life.
Clinical: Bronson says he was impressed by the scalability of the business. Complex sunscreen molecules can be made quickly and easily. The $18 billion sunscreen industry isn’t huge, but the potential for that space to grow quickly was a big plus.
Pyron Systems – Pyrone Systems is using scalable, biology-based technologies to create a new-age biopesticide. Specifically, one that does not kill, but selectively deters pests such as mosquitoes. The biopesticide is currently being “fast-tracked” by the EPA, according to Indibio’s website. According to Indibio, the process could also be used to create 7 other products, opening up to $40 billion in other markets.
Clinical: Founder-Market Fit. The founders of Pyrone are seasoned entrepreneurs, and their team includes people with deep biopesticide expertise.
Solid Aux Motors – Solid Ox is making “range extender” chargers for commercial-scale electric vehicles, which have less time to charge and are more sensitive to fuel prices than personal vehicles. As of now, these chargers are capable of halving refueling times, at an affordable cost, according to Indibio’s website.
Clinical: The idea of low-cost energy and market fit was key to Solid Ox. But it was the CEO, Jared Moore, and his background in engineering that impressed the team.
Puna Bio – Puna Bio specializes in growing microbial extremophiles – organisms that have been on Earth for billions of years. Notably, this team has managed to grow microbes found only in the La Puna desert (an area described as . “Mars on Earth”), where they have managed to sustain plant life. Puna is using these microbes to revive degraded soils and increase yields in fertile soils.
Clinical: Bronson describes these extremists as “substance-altering programs” – an idea he has been excited about for some time. But what officially sealed the deal was that Poona is ready to tap into both the agriculture and land markets. Restoring the fertility potential for uncultivable land can, in fact, change the value of the land itself.
Big Organic – Growth factors are proteins that help stimulate the growth of tissues. They are a major part of the cell-based meat market, but we’re still learning about them, Grand Bio wants to help cells produce their own Our growth factor more efficiently, The company sells growth-factor enhancement supplements for the media in which cells live and grow.
Clinical: Grand Bio offers a fresh take on a well-known problem. “I like the antithesis of trying to reduce the cost of growth factors, to make them in all kinds of systems. And they’re like, no, we’ll just let the cells last longer on a little bit of growth factors,” he said.
sea and faith sea and faith Founder Jennifer O’Brien has toured the beaches of Ireland in search of the best-tasting seaweed. He found it on an Irish coastline and has now begun to develop it as a scalable food source. Sea&Believe already has partnerships with Wageningen University, The University of Limerick and Klextral.
clinical – Bronson says O’Brien has a solid and compelling founding story. But it also has plans to grow a seaweed-based food business that has a niche: a type of seaweed known for its flavor. He says capturing the supply chain was interesting. (Full disclosure, she hasn’t tried seaweed herself yet, but she plans to when an upcoming shipment arrives).
matagen – Matagene has focused on engineering a single enzyme that has the power to change how efficiently crops use important resources such as starch. Ultimately, the product could change how plants use starch to increase crop yields by 90 percent in potatoes, 41 percent in canola and 24 percent in sorghum, in Indibio.
clinical – Bronson noted that many investors overlook the potential in agricultural innovation. Instead, he sees the same field as pharma: “If you make a big, big crop, it’s like a blockbuster drug,” he says. Matagene’s technology is also applicable to multiple crops (so you’re not pinned down with just one), and, he says, can be applied to the food, industrial and carbon markets.
Veloz Bio – Veloz Bio has developed a rapid protein production system (think animal proteins that are grown in crops). The company can grow and develop the new protein in less than 6 months without the use of a bioreactor.
clinical – These founders have expertise in critical aspects of protein production: supercritical fluid extraction and membrane purification. They have run large-scale businesses in the Mexican food system before. “I wanted industry professionals to come up to it and come up with a real ability to scale and extract,” says Bronson.
Prothegen – There are two primary routes that cells follow towards death. One of them is called ferroptosis, a process in which cell defense mechanisms fail, and they become overwhelmed by rogue molecules. The goal of ProtheGen is to develop drugs that can control that death cycle – applying it to some cells and stopping it in others.
clinical – Bronson was able to demonstrate a high level of expertise in the prothegen ferroptosis area. “The part that put us on top was spending time with Professor Scott Dixon” [a discoverer of ferroptosis],” he says. The specific challenges associated with manipulating this process were strong, and Prothegene demonstrated the ability to meet that high bar.
Wayfinder Biosciences – Wayfinder is using RNA-based biosensors to control bio-editing molecules (such as CRISPR). This allows for once-permanent changes created to respond to the environment – for example, imaging certain genes to be “on” and “off” in response to changing conditions in the body. Wayfinder is a spinout from the Center for Synthetic Biology at the University of Washington.
Clinical: The wayfinder was an example of “programmable” logic in biology. Fixing biological systems with precision is an important consideration, Bronson says.
Selens – Selens has developed a urine-based colon cancer test that goes beyond screening. The test also monitors cell surfaces to help determine the stage and aggressiveness of the cancer. At the moment, the test can detect colon cancer with 94 percent accuracy, and is in clinical trials at Dartmouth, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the University of Washington.
clinical – Both Celense and ProtonIntel (see below) speak to a research from Indibio: “Where the money is being spent is in long-term patient monitoring,” says Bronson. “And the great pain in the ass for the patient is that they don’t just need a screening test, they need a true biological marker.” Selens is designed to measure patient progress in sufficient detail to drive clinical decisions, rather than simply screen for a single disease.
ProtonIntel – ProtonIntel is developing a fast, continuous potassium monitor. Potassium is an important element that drives the heart’s electrical signals, and in people with kidney failure, potassium levels can get out of control. ProtonIntel is designed to measure those potassium levels before problems occur, like a heart attack, get up.
clinical – Bronson says ProtonIntel tackles a particularly difficult scientific problem: measuring potassium in the body. But past experience in this market has suggested that this service is really needed, and could further disrupt the dialysis industry (which, after decades of stagnation, already watching Change,
Unlock Labs – Unlocked Labs is a consumer probiotic company whose first products focused on lowering oxalic acid and uric acid—two products in the body responsible for kidney stones and gout, respectively. The company aims to improve microbiome health and use that system to reduce toxins in the body.
clinical – The first generation of microbiome products, Bronson says, were focused on balancing that colonization of microbes. The next generation, he argues, aims to provide “specific and targeted benefits.” Unlock Labs fits into that niche, he says.