There’s no shortage of innovation in the synbio space, but there’s a gap when it comes to startups’ manufacturing capacity to bring novel sustainable products to life. Culture Biosciences, which is on a mission to fill this gap with its cloud bioreactor platform, just secured $80 million a Series B round.
Culture Biosciences has closed its Series B with $80 million, led by Maryland-based science-focused VC Northpond Ventures. Other investors participating in the round, which brings the company’s total funding to date to over $100 million, included Synthesis Capital, Craft Ventures, Box Group, and Section 32. While startups are developing novel bio-based solutions for everything from food to fashion, Culture is squarely focused on helping firms produce these products at scale.
At the moment, there simply isn’t enough manufacturing capacity to cater to the influx of synbio products being developed. Companies have raced to develop sustainable solutions, such as fermentation-enabled protein that could disrupt carbon-intensive animal agriculture or fossil-fuel-free materials that can displace polyester in fashion—but these are just being prototyped or produced at the pilot stage.
“Recently there’s been an explosion in the number of new companies in synthetic biology and biopharmaceuticals, and large multinational corporations are also increasingly participating in this space,” shared co-founder and CEO Will Patrick. One recent report estimates that synbio solutions could have the potential to reshape the way food and fashion is made, slashing these industries’ environmental footprint, with double-digit growth in the years to come.
“Although demand for biomanufactured products—from food to clothing to vaccines—is surging, there’s a huge gap in the infrastructure required to produce these bioproducts at commercial scale,” says Patrick.
Culture’s cloud bioreactors do just that, helping clients ramp up their existing processes to the manufacturing level. Based in San Francisco, Culture’s digitally optimized platform allows R&D scientists to focus on designing and analysing experiments, while it monitors changes, tracks data, and generates the insights into the bioprocesses needed for companies to scale.
Armed with fresh funding, Culture is going to continue scaling out its facilities. It has already grown 3-fold over the past year, secured over 30 clients under its belt, and launched a new Cloud Console web app that allows companies to track all the data in one place.
Now, the company is looking to build 5-litre and 250-litre cloud bioreactors, which means clients can begin testing larger quantities as they look towards getting regulatory approval for novel fermentation-enabled or cell-based products. One of the clients that Culture has worked with includes The Every Company, the animal-free egg maker that has recently rebranded from Clara Foods to launch its flagship product.
The Every Company uses precision fermentation to recreate bio-identical egg proteins, which can replace the need for carbon-intensive and unethical factory farming.
“Access to 5L and 250L reactors through Culture’s services offers several advantages to companies like ours seeking to develop and scale bioprocesses,” said The Every Company’s CTO Ranjan Patnaik. “Through Culture, we now have the option of a one-stop-shop for bench-scale testing and pilot-scale production. We can develop a process with Culture and easily make a large batch of material.”
“Other benefits include accelerating product pipeline development, data-driven and lower-risk scaling, and saving the time and money required to build additional fermentation capacity,” Patnaik added.
‘Culture is addressing a growing market need’
For lead investor Northpond Ventures, the decision to back Culture is down to the startup’s timely solution to a fast-growing need in the market. “Demand for sustainable bio-based products is rapidly increasing, but innovators face two key challenges. Culture’s cloud bioreactor lab already addresses the first challenge: bench-scale process optimization,” commented senior associate at Northpond Andrew Lee.
“Companies still need to scale to commercial quantities, however. By expanding its technology and data infrastructure, Culture can address this growing market need,” Lee added.
Patrick shares that Culture will now be able to use the funding to “create a new and improved customer journey within biomanufacturing,” adding that its cloud platform can now bring companies “from bench to pilot scale, which is a big leap toward our goal of making biomanufacturing R&D a fully digital experience.”
Other companies that are also working on closing the manufacturing gap in synbio include Ginkgo Bioworks, the Boston-based startup that went public on the NYSE last month. Ginkgo’s platform allows firms across multiple industries, including food ingredients, cosmetics, and fragrances to manufacture sustainable bio-based alternatives. Some of its clients include alt-protein startup Motif Foodworks, and Swiss food giant Givaudan, which is now expanding its portfolio of fermentation-derived ingredients.
All images courtesy of Culture Biosciences, unless otherwise credited.