KnipBio closes Series B round for its Single Cell Protein: what’s SCP and why is it becoming the hottest development target around?
In Massachusetts, the expected wave of 2017 methane-to-protein advances got a kick-start with news that KnipBio closed a $2M Series B investment round led by Launchpad Venture Group and Cherrystone Angel Group. KnipBio intends to use the investment of up to $2M to advance new product development, continue the aggressive move towards commercial-scale manufacturing of its proprietary fish food ingredient, and further diversify its protein platform.
KnipBio has developed a series of naturally occurring microbes that convert low-cost feedstock into premium, nutritious, single-cell proteins laden with pigment-enhancing carotenoids to produce healthier, more vibrant fish.
The team is packed with familiar faces. CEO and co-founder Larry Feinberg is an entrepreneurial industrial biotechnologist and at Mascoma, he led the Organism Discovery group and New Business Opportunities team. Co-founder and CTO Christopher Marx doubles as an Associate Professor in Biological Sciences at the University of Idaho. Jess McLear is KnipBio’s COO as well as an angel investor and member of Launchpad Venture Group. The VP of R&D is a familiar face in the industry — Catherine Pujol-Baxley is the former Associate Director of Strain Engineering at Genomatica and before that as a scientist at Verenium.
More background on the protein situation
As the company notes, “One in five people on the planet depend on fish as their primary protein source, and by the year 2020, the world will require an estimated 23 million more tons of farm-raised fish to feed our ever-growing population. We’ve overexploited our natural fisheries and our current feeds are both expensive and nutritionally incomplete.
Both the World Health Organization and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization have articulated the critical need for alternative sources of healthy protein for farm-raised fish. With fewer wild feeder fish available, like anchovies and herring, many aquaculture farms rely on soy, corn-based protein and chemically derived products often leading to ill effects: bloating, stomach inflammation and altogether sub-optimal fish.”
More on the competing technologies
We reported in October on Culture Biosystems, which produces attractive economics for its advanced algae cultivation platform which enables large-scale production of algae to be used in producing biofuels, aviation fuels, feed, protein and nutraceuticals. More on that technology here.
We reported last month that Cargill and Calysta revealed that they will co-create the world’s largest gas fermentation facility in Memphis, Tennessee to produce Calysta’s FeedKind protein, a family of sustainable, traceable nutritional ingredients for fish, livestock and pets. Start-up is expected in late 2018. 20,000 metric tons per year of FeedKind protein initially and expanding up to 200,000 metric tons per year when operating at full capacity. More on that story here.
A Cautionary Tale
Single-celled protein. It’s the technology that Sank the Soviet Union, as we reported in “Did little algae freedom fighters win the Cold War?”:
“In the Soviet Union,” Dr. John Benemann told The Digest, “a major, semi-secret effort was started in the 1950s to develop an industrial process based on the conversion of oil into feeds, by bacterial and yeast fermentations. Over the following decades enormous production systems were set up all over the Soviet Union producing millions of tons of animal feed, a great success in fulfilling the five year plan goals. Unfortunately consumption, by the animals (they refused it) was not as successful, and problems of contamination with residual hydrocarbons were a problem. Failure of the Soviet system to produce sufficient feed was a significant contributory reason for its collapse.”
Reactions from the stakeholders
According to Larry Feinberg, PhD., co-founder and CEO of KnipBio, “We have made remarkable progress over the past 18 months in moving our technology from laboratory-scale research to large-vessel production. This funding will enable us to demonstrate viability of our microbial derived protein at commercial scale manufacturing. We will be working with selected manufacturing partners to leverage existing fermentation assets to execute our capital-light strategy.”
“Additionally, we will use the proceeds to complete further animal trials globally, achieve regulatory registration as a feed ingredient, and advance the development of our promising protein-plus SCP platform that include the manufacture of carotenoids and other nutritional additives to improve overall animal health.”
Christopher Mirabile, Managing Director of Launchpad Venture Group, stated, “Not only is KnipBio shaping up to be an excellent early-stage investment for our group, but it is rewarding to be part of a venture that has the potential to improve the diets of tens of millions of people around the world.”
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