Taking Experiments from Lab to Market: Thoughts From SynBioBeta London

One of the most satisfying things about working with early stage biotech ventures is helping start-ups execute on their ideas. At UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund we invest in scientists with ground breaking technology, who are highly capable on identifying applications but sometimes less familiar with the market and its commercial potential.

These issues were highlighted at the recent SynBioBeta London at Imperial College, where I participated in an investor roundtable alongside a syn bio incubator, seed and public market investors. The panel discussed the progression of engineering biology towards the main stream and its great growth potential, leading to two themes…

Evolution. Syn bio is slowly moving from focusing on building great research, manufacturing and tools capabilities towards products but there remains a lack of product companies.  Collectively the panel asked the question, where are the application of syn bio? The foundations are sound with large translational grants and growing interest from VCs. Recent proposed changes in EU legislation allowing each member state to decide on the cultivation and marketing of food and feed and derived products will help. Companies are targeting 2C per base for DNA synthesis. Bioinformatics and tools companies are building extraordinary capability in high volume, low cost assembly and optimisation. The next stage of smarter experimental design and automation is coming. But what is the output? We’re seeing healthcare and industrial biotech but what other novel global opportunities are there in the pipeline?

More than the technology. It was clear that research and innovation is flourishing, but is that a great company? The really exciting opportunities focus on the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ and are big ideas with globally disruptive agendas. Early venture backed companies are mostly technology based. The science is what excites investors but it may not excite the customer. Even the most bleeding edge technology needs a commercial driver to be successful.