FabricNano raises $12.5M to help scale its cell-free fossil fuel alternative technology – TechCrunch

Jul 6, 2021

We rarely hear DNA described as a wafer, but it’s an analogy used by Grant Aarons, founder of the cell-free biomaker Fabric Nano, to describe his company’s flagship product. Its DNA hopes to hurt the growing global petrochemical industry, which currently relies on fossil fuels and their by-products.

FabricNano is a London-based company founded in 2018 through technology startup accelerator Entrepreneur First. Fabric Nano is invested in the creation of cell-free biomanufacturing. Biomanufacturing simply uses enzymes in cells or microorganisms to produce the final product. FabricNano’s approach is to instead place those enzymes on a DNA wafer (this process is called enzyme immobilization).

Aaron’s is currently using these enzymes to mass produce chemicals, such as those used in the production of drugs and plastics, with higher efficiency compared to cell-based systems. It claims that it can be produced independently of the fossil fuels that are used. The company is a DNA scaffold that can contain enough enzymes to scale up these reactions.

This week, FabricNano announced $ 12.5 million in this week’s Series A funding from prominent angel investor executives. The round was led by Atomico and included investments from Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, actress, UN sustainability ambassador Emma Watson, and former Bayer CEO Alexander Moscho.

“We went out and actively tried to get the angels we deserved for the company,” says Aaron’s. “We also saw a number of different technology angels, after all, because what we manufacture is the technology that enables manufacturers.

“We don’t want to make bio-based plastics or bio-based monomers on a sufficient scale,” he continues. “We want to offer [manufacturers] Then use the technology that can be used to manufacture on a large scale and at a sufficiently low cost. This is a scalable and sustainable way to make low value molecules like bioplastics. “

Part of FabricNano’s identity relies on creating bio-based alternatives within the growing petrochemical sector.

Currently, about 14% of the world’s oil demand goes to plastic production. According to the International Energy Agency, chemicals from petroleum and gas that can be used to make petrochemicals or plastics and other materials are expected to drive about half of global oil demand by 2050. 2018 forecast..

Plastics, the primary final product of the petrochemical industry, contribute to climate change at almost every point in its life cycle, whether it is produced by heating petroleum or ethane or burned as waste. If both plastic production and use continue at the current pace, emissions are projected to reach 1.34 gigatons (equivalent to 295 coal-fired power plants) by 2030. Center for International Environmental Law..

Naturally make More plastic, No matter how it is made, it itself contributes to ecological disasters (Scientists To phase out “unused” plastic production by 2040).

In addition, the vague term “biodegradable” can refer to anything from biodegradable plastics to plastics made without fossil fuels (even those that are not biodegradable). This makes the world of eco-friendly plastics very vulnerable to greenwashing.

The remaining question is how much biomanufacturing can have a significant impact on reducing the contribution of petrochemicals to climate change. Unknown at this time. Aaron’s argues that some of the appeal of cell-free manufacturing could separate the industry from using petroleum (or ethanol in the United States) to make plastics and other general-purpose chemicals.

“We are really talking about new technologies to take over many commodity sectors and bring many of those oil-based products from petroleum into the biological arena,” Aarons says.

However, there are clear concerns about producing plastics as-is, and there is room for alternatives if they prove to be scalable and cost-effective enough to replace the existing petrochemical industry. there is.

There is some evidence that cell-free manufacturing has already It was scaled well. For example, high fructose corn syrup is made when cornstarch is enzymatically broken down into glucose. The final step requires one enzyme, glucose isomerase. Aaron’s calls the production of high fructose corn syrup “the world’s largest cell-free implementation.”

Based on that concept, FabricNano is partially considering offering a larger suite of available chemicals. Today, FabricNano can already create chemicals such as 1,3 propanediol, an ingredient that can replace polyethylene glycol in toothpaste and shampoos. The input required to make that product is glycerin, a major waste in biodiesel production. This can help keep costs down and provide an alternative source of fossil fuels.

Aaron says he has proved that Fabric Nano can make four additional products, but hasn’t revealed what kind it is. He states that Fabric Nano is interested in the “pharmaceutical sector” and general-purpose chemicals. “There are many commodity chemicals we can make. 1,3propanediol is just the tip of the iceberg,” he says.

Still, FabricNano’s striking approach is probably the actual DNA scaffolding, not the commodity chemicals ever produced. If the enzyme that attaches to the DNA wafer and helps produce chemicals is software, then the DNA scaffold is Fabric Nano’s hardware.

That hardware is the main way the company wants to bring cell-free to the world of commodity chemicals.

“The real missing part and why [cell-free manufacturing] It’s been a niche technique for a long time, but there was no generalized technique for immobilizing all these proteins, “he says.

With the latest funding, Fabric Nano plans to increase its workforce from 12 to 30 and move it to a new London-based office. The total investment in the company is $ 16 million.

FabricNano raises $12.5M to help scale its cell-free fossil fuel alternative technology – TechCrunch Source link FabricNano raises $12.5M to help scale its cell-free fossil fuel alternative technology – TechCrunch