Profitable and sustainable production of biochemicals and biofuels is a crucial goal for modern biotechnology. Current methods are based on microbial fermentation, which suffers from mismatch of cellular and technical goals, scaling challenges and much more.
However, cell-free biosystems for bioproduction appear as an alternative to fermentation. According to various experts, cellless systems offer simpler and faster engineering solutions with unprecedented freedom of design in an open environment than cellular systems.
What is a cell-free solution?
The cell-free solution seeks to remove the stress caused by living organisms (bacteria) to develop simpler versions of biologically inspired systems efficiently designed for practical uses.
Based in London, Nano fabric is a cell-free bioproduction company that develops technology that allows manufacturers to sustainably synthesize any material from enzymes.
Funding of £ 9million
The UK company that designs artificial cells that produce chemicals 100 times faster has just raised funding of $ 12.5million (around £ 9million) in a Series A cycle.
The investment round was led by European VC Atomico (the venture capital firm created by Skype founder Niklas Zennström), with participation from existing investors Backed, Hoxton Ventures and Entrepreneur First.
In addition, various notable international angels have joined the cycle including Biz Stone (co-founder of Twitter), Emma Watson (UN sustainability ambassador), Arvind Gupta (founder of Indiebio and partner of Mayfield), Alexander Moscho (former Bayer CEO), Michael Stoppelman (former Yelp SVP Engineering), Elvie founder Tania Boler and Vijay Pandurangan (former head of engineering site Twitter NY).
As part of this cycle, Siraj Khaliq, partner of Atomico, will join the Board of Directors of FabricNano. With that, biotech has now raised a total investment of $ 16million (around £ 11.5million).
The latest funding will be used to advance the development of sustainably synthesized alternatives to petrochemicals and drugs, which currently account for 14% of global oil demand.
Address the biofabrication of basic chemicals
Founded in 2018 as part of the Entrepreneur First program by Grant Aarons and Ferdinando Randisi, FabricNano’s mission is to replace all fermented and petrochemical products in the world with biofabricated alternatives.
In an exclusive interview with UKTN, Grant Aarons, Co-Founder and CEO of FabricNano, says: “We are tackling the biofabrication of basic chemicals (less than $ 5 / kg). Our approach is to move away from the cell-based fermentation technology of the clean tech revolution of the early 2000s and instead focus on using a new technology stack called ‘cellless’ to biofabricate elements. such as bioplastics, biofuels and other common chemicals.
According to Aarons, cell fermentation presents many challenges, such as less than 50% conversion of the input hydrocarbon, requiring certain conditions to survive, susceptibility to infection, work restrictions and much more.
At the same time, the cellless system can convert 100% of the input hydrocarbon to the final product, industrial by design, and has no problem if the input hydrocarbon is dirty and impure. Notably, cellless systems are best deployed in flow reactors.
Aarons adds, “Cell fermentation is good at over $ 20 per kg of chemicals == $ 100 billion market. Cellless is the manufacturing method of the future for less than $ 5 / kg of chemicals ==> $ 5 opportunity. Cell-free products can also make> $ 20 / kg of chemicals, but why compete with fermentation when the world needs a solution to an unresolved problem in the production of bio-based chemicals? “
Reduce the cost of bioproduction
The British company created a DNA-based flow reactor to produce biochemicals by designing enzymes to bind directly to DNA, providing greater flexibility.
As a result, the company has reduced the cost of bioproduction through various innovations that significantly improve the efficiency of the cell-free bioproduction process.
Speaking of the offerings, Aarons says, “FabricNano is focused on changing the material world around us, and we’re especially interested in solving the bioproduction of basic chemicals that fermentation struggles to make. In this sense, we fight against the preconceived idea that fermentation is a technology that can deliver bio-based chemicals like plastics and fuels. The clean tech revolution of the early 2000s failed to produce these products, mainly because the fermentation tech stack was / is best suited for making high value products with a selling price over $ 20. / kg. We’ve seen a lot of biotech companies move away from biofabrication of basic chemicals, but we’re using a new technology stack and it’s called cellless biofabrication.
He continues, “At FabricNano, we believe cellless bioproduction has an excellent opportunity to disrupt the manufacturing of the more than $ 5 billion in commodity chemicals that are currently produced from petroleum. These products are anything that is not concrete, ceramic, glass, wood or metal. The world has a serious problem with our dependence on chemicals derived from petroleum. We need a better and more sustainable way to manufacture common raw materials to ensure a better future for the planet. ”
“Cellless bioproduction is a booming technology sector, with a number of new entrants all of which solve a number of interesting problems. Other attempts at cell-free bioproduction deploy insoluble glass or plastic beads to support enzyme immobilization. These competing cell-free technologies will find it difficult to immobilize a special set of molecules called “cofactors” because their support materials do not allow spatial precision in the colocalization of key biological ingredients (namely enzymes and cofactors). FabricNano is uniquely positioned to deliver over 90% of the basic chemicals over biofabrication that require the use of a cofactor (eg NADH, NADPH, ATP, FAD, etc.). Our ability to treat a ‘cofactor as a catalyst’ is a key differentiator when we compare ourselves to other cellless tech companies. We are also a back-up system, so that we can easily be deployed in existing packed bed reactor equipment that is already in use around the world, ”he explains.
Partnership with Atomico
FabricNano’s partnership with Atomico will enable the company to accelerate the scale-up of its FabricFlow reactor technology.
On the partnership with Atomico, Aarons shares, “At Atomico, we believe that profit and purpose are mutually reinforcing, and as a result, we often look for founders who solve global problems on a large scale. Few problems are more important today than the current unsustainability of the production of plastics and chemicals. By substituting petrochemicals for biochemicals, we believe that bioproduction can play an important role in this process and we believe that FabricNano is at the forefront of this bioindustrial revolution. FabricNano has impressed us immensely with its breakthrough technology that reduces cell-free costs to the levels required by the $ 4 billion basic chemicals production market.