SilicoLife raises €9.8m to invest in biotech for supplements
The two rounds of Series A investment of €4.9 million each, funded by venture capital firm BlueCrow, will go towards supporting the development and evolution of the company over the next three to five years.
Launched in 2010, SilicoLife combines metabolic engineering and synthetic biology approaches to shorten the development time and costs of new processes for the production of specific target compounds such as chemicals, food ingredients or biopolymers.
With experience in creating optimised biological solutions for leading companies across different sectors, the firm says it will use the new funds to focus on creating its own line of production technologies within the dietary supplements industry.
Simão Soares, SilicoLife CEO, adds: “Fermentation is the manufacturing technology of the future. We are leveraging our technological expertise and experience in developing new biological processes to address the currently unmet needs of the high-growth supplement industry.
"The cooperation between SilicoLife and BlueCrow combines our recognized expertise in R&D with the financial strength and scope of the funds managed by BlueCrow to scale and potentiate a knowledge-based company.
He further explained how the company planned to provide access to pure ingredients currently only available as part of plant extracts by using fermentation and designed organisms
"The selection of molecules are part of our development pipeline, however we already are working in developing strains for some molecules such as salidroside, hydroxytyrosol, and danshensu, among others. Salidroside, the active ingredient on the popular rhodiola rosea extract, is an example of a molecule that is becoming more and more mentioned in the market - and for which we already have a patent application covering our biological production design."
To take on this new phase, SilicoLife will also expand its team by recruiting in the areas of software engineering, molecular biology, strain engineering, and business development, amongst others.
Production of the future
Biotechnology not only allows for the production of compounds that could historically only be extracted from non-sustainable sources, but it also allows the replacement of highly polluting chemical processes.
This sort of work can involve simple gene editing combined with fermentation processes, or more complex applications such as cellular meats that culture food products from animal cells.
SilicoLife's approach to synthetic biology involves applying fermentation to produce ingredients by using microorganisms as cell factories in fermentation processes for the production of supplements in order to improve their sustainability, ensure identity and enhance supply chain security.
“It is extremely important to have scalable technologies that can offer efficient processes for compounds that can be efficiently scaled-up respecting environmental and social aspects. Indeed, most of the current production methods rely upon lengthy cultivation and low yield extraction processes, since most often plant concentrations of active compounds are very low, leading to high market prices,” Soares explained to NutraIngredients previously.
SilicoLife is exploring novel routes for the production of compounds currently only available through plant extraction or with synthetic analogues made primarily from petrochemicals. The firm says the lack of satisfying biological processes creates a market space for new sustainable production routes that will become extremely relevant to supply natural alternatives that can help satisfy the consumers.
Butanova is a novel and proprietary metabolic pathway for the production of n-butanol (patent pending). This new pathway, resulting from AI methodologies developed at the company, was implemented and experimentally validated in collaboration with University of Minho, in Portugal. The use of a non-previously reported precursor opens the door to a great variety of hosts and feedstocks.