The company’s mission is to transition the chemical feedstock market for industrial and commercial products from a petrochemical to a bio-based production model using microbial cell factories.
EV Biotech, a Dutch biotechnology company which sustainably develops bio-based products for industry, has received €4.5m in seed investment from a range of investors led by impact investors Future Food Fund.
In operation since January 2019, the company combines microbial fermentation with data-driven predictive algorithms to accelerate microbial production methods for products such as proteins, food ingredients, flavours, fragrances, cosmetic ingredients, materials and bio-pesticides.
It says the fermentation processes it uses can be designed to be carbon-neutral, or even carbon-negative by utilising existing industrial waste-streams, which is in contrast to many traditional production methods based on emission-intensive, fossil fuel-based processes.
The company’s mission is to transition the chemical feedstock market for industrial and commercial products from a petrochemical to a bio-based production model using microbial cell factories, which Agnieszka Wegrzyn, chief science and technology officer and one of the company’s cofounders, described as “genetically modified microorganisms, such as bacteria or yeast, that are designed to produce specific compounds or proteins for industrial or medical purposes”.
EV Biotech said it would use the capital raised to build on existing technology and implement client feedback to improve its products. It will also use the funds to develop in-house microorganisms to serve a variety of markets and create a microbial chassis – a cellular host for developing synthetic biotech material, to produce different kinds of bioplastics.
Speaking to Impact Investor, Jaap Strengers, managing partner for the Future Food Fund, said that fermentation technologies had an important role to play in the shift towards alternative proteins for food and bio-based solutions for materials or chemicals.
“ [These are] all required to build sustainable industrial systems that operate within planetary boundaries. EV Biotech is a piece in this large puzzle as through their combined data and lab solutions, they can massively speed up the development of new microbial strains required for these fermentation technologies to thrive,” he added.
Other investors in the seed round included NOM, Carduso Capital, Rug Ventures, Triade Investment, Voyagers.io Climate Tech Fund, Blue Horizon as well as angel investors Jogchum Brinksma (Flobas Ventures), Scott Saxberg (Icebook), Hannu Ryopponen, Marc Kaptein, Andrew Nutter and Marie Outtier.
Saving time and resources
EV Biotech said that until now, one of the issues with microbial-derived products has been the very time and resource intensive development process. Traditional methods employ a trial-and-error approach to create an effective microorganism, which also results in a lower project success rate.
The company said it had addressed this problem by developing a technology platform that combined data with laboratory approaches to accelerate both novel and existing industrial fermentation processes.
Using the platform, its scientists employ in-house models, including data-driven AI models, to identify R&D steps with the highest potential for success, and connect microbial strain design and testing with in-house industrial scale bioprocess models to predict future profitability.
EV Biotech believes its approach can potentially save millions of euros in R&D costs for both the company and its clients and get the products on the market faster and at a more competitive price.
EV Biotech’s platform has been commercially tested with seven different client projects so far focusing on production methods for alternative proteins, small molecules and bioplastics.
Strengers added: “The management of EV Biotech had already shown good traction with a range of corporate as well as scale-up customers active in this space, which made us believe even more in this investment opportunity.”
Producing bioplastics more efficiently
EV Biotech has also developed an in-house bioplastic-producing microbial chassis that is able to produce bioplastics more efficiently, accumulating up to 80% of its biomass.
Wegrzyn explained: “Microbes grow and multiply all of which is considered biomass. They can also accumulate certain products, such as bioplastic internally. In this case it means that from the total biomass weight, 80% of it is the accumulated bioplastic.”
The company plans to pilot this microbial chassis this year, and aims for an entry to market within three years, which it says is a 70% time-to-market improvement compared to traditional trial-and-error strain design approaches.
“The real magic of EV Biotech’s methods lies within the quick feedback loop from laboratory to computer and back. When a microorganism is developed in the lab, vast amounts of information are gathered, including growth, performance, transcriptomics and metabolomics datasets. These complex datasets are directly integrated with our existing computational models, allowing us to quickly perform design-build-test cycles, which help to select the most impactful R&D steps,” added Wegrzyn.