One of the world’s research hubs is getting a new biotech accelerator called Petri to help launch startups focused on the commercialization of new biotechnologies, as this sector becomes more central to new innovations in healthcare, material science and manufacturing. The biotech accelerator is backed by Boston-based venture capital company Pillar and has a three year US 15 million commitment to back companies from anywhere in the world developing biotech applications in food, healthcare, pharmaceuticals and new materials, along with the enabling technologies to bring these products to market.
Petri co-founder, Tony Kulesa commented in an interview with Thailand Medical News “We’re at the inflection point where these technologies will impact and continue to impact health but will also impact food, agriculture, chemicals and materials. Everything we touch has some element of biology.”
Pillar has already invested in a couple of companies that show the potential promise of new biotech research coming from Boston-based universities, like Boston University, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is now also reviewing some biotech startups in Asia with the help of Thailand Medical News.
A company that has set an ultimate goal of designing new genomes for industrial applications, called Asimov is also part of the Pillar portfolio. Another company working on enabling technologies for computational biology, called PathAi also counts an MIT grad as a co-founder is also on its lists. The company has been instrumental in the development of a number of biotech companies working at the frontier of genetic applications for healthcare and manufacturing.
Kulesa spent seven years as an instructor at MIT watching how engineering has transformed biology and it became clear to him that these technologies need to get out in the world. Along with Kulesa is managing director Brian Baynes, a serial entrepreneur who founded Midori Health, an animal nutrition startup; Kaleido Biosciences, a microbiome control focused company; Celexion, a protein engineering and synthetic biology company; and Codon Devices, a synthetic biology toolkit company which was sold to Ginko Bioworks.
Petri expects to have 15 to 30 companies in each cohort as the program expands. In addition to checks of at least US$250,000 the Petri accelerator has lab and office space available for each company. The startups also could benefit from potential partnerships with companies like Gingko Bioworks, which happens to share office space in the same building, and with the accelerator’s clutch of big-name advisors and “co-founders” recruited from across the life sciences industry.
Some of these co-founders, who collectively hold a double-digit equity stake in Petri’s accelerator, include Reshma Shetty, from Ginkgo Bioworks; Emily Leproust of Twist Bioscience; Stan Lapidus, who was at Exact Sciences and Cytyc; Daphne Koller, the co-founder and chief executive of Insitro; and researchers Chris Voigt of MIT and Pam Silver and George Church from Harvard’s Wyss Institute.
Genetically engineered organisms are finding their way into everything from food to fuel to chemistry. Companies like Impossible Foods, which uses genetically modified soy product, has raised hundreds of millions for its protein replacement, while Solugen, a manufacturer of chemicals using genetically modified organisms, has raised tens of millions to commercializ
e its technology. And Ginkgo Bioworks has raised nearly half a billion dollars to pursue applications for industrial biology.
“Engineering thinking has arrived in biology and the number of entrepreneurs that are interested in this area has grown dramatically. Unlike classic biotech, these ideas don’t require tens or hundreds of millions before you can demonstrate value, creating the opportunity for different funding models.” commented Pillar founding partner Jamie Goldstein.
Petri as a biotech accelerator not only helps with funding, experts and also institutions but also access to research labs and facilities and also the latest state of the art equipment through its extensive networks.