Pluton Biosciences gets $6.6M in seed funding, Bayer AG soil deal and more

October 10, 2021 |

Pluton is a large body of intrusive igneous rock according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, and “breaking ground” and being “ground breaking” is just what Pluton Biosciences is doing with their novel microbes. They are making discovery of novel microbes not only possible, but commercially viable. And news just came in that Pluton Biosciences raised $6.6 million in seed round funding, they signed a soil microbe research agreement with Bayer AG, and they advanced a bacteria development through a Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator.

In today’s Digest, what the $6.6. million means for Pluton Bioscience, the story behind their research agreement with Bayer AG, their progress through the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator, and more.

The background

Before we get into the $6.6 million in seed funding, the Bayer AG agreement, and their latest developments, let’s look at what Pluton Biosciences does. Founded in 2017, Pluton Biosciences quickly and inexpensively taps into the diverse world of bacteria, fungi and viruses to discover next-generation products for carbon sequestration, agriculture, pharmaceutical, biomaterials and bioremediation. Their Micromining process generates diverse commercialization options, including:

  • Organisms (biological products)
  • Small Molecule Chemistries (fermentable and non-fermentable)
  • New Traits (scale dependent)

Their revolutionary Micromining Innovation Engine empowers the Pluton Biosciences team to discover novel microbes in months, not years, using a fraction of the staff employed by other laboratories.

Pluton points out on their website that millions of microbes, each with their own distinct capabilities and characteristics, can live in just a teaspoon of soil. With over 1 trillion species of microbes on the planet, only about 1 in a million have been described.

Pluton’s current product efforts focus on agriculture, using microbes to fight climate change and replacing synthetic chemical applications with eco-friendly microbial products. Pluton uses its Micromining Innovation Engine, a high-throughput microbial discovery platform, to identify and isolate novel organisms within months to dramatically improve R&D throughput for agtech companies.

The $6.6M round of funding

It wasn’t just one investor handing out the $6.6 million in seed round funding just a few days ago. Pluton received support from multiple angel and institutional investors, which include Greenwich, CT-based First In Ventures (www.firstinventures.com), St. Louis-based The Yield Lab Institute (www.theyieldlabsinstitute.org), and Wing Venture Capital (www.wing.vc).

Pluton’s lead investor is Better Ventures of Oakland, CA (www.better.vc). Two other key partners include Boston, MA-based Grantham Environmental Trust (www.granthamfoundation.org) via its environmental capital vehicle, Neglected Climate Opportunities (NCO), LLC.; and San Mateo, CA-based Fall Line Capital (www.fall-line-capital.com).

They have a long and impressive list of investors too that show they’ve got quite a few believers backing them.

“With this new round of capital, we’ll be able to build Pluton’s value as an innovative force, providing solutions to the climate and agriculture challenges of our time. Credit goes to the leadership and science team who generated the results to make this all possible,” said Pluton Founder and Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Barry Goldman.

“These investors are highly knowledgeable and will actively help guide Pluton in the most productive directions. It is very exciting to have all of these impressive groups joining our Seed Round,” said Goldman. “The investments in our company are a validation of our research efforts and accomplishments to date to solve global problems such as pollution, climate change, disease, and crop infestation. Their investment in us is an investment in a better, more sustainable world for everyone.”

The Bayer AG deal

Just a few weeks ago came news that Pluton Biosciences is collaborating with global life sciences company Bayer AG to investigate the development of an all-natural, microbe-based carbon-capture soil amendment for growers.

Collaborating with Bayer, Pluton will use its Micromining Innovation Engine to identify and develop microbes currently found in soil that can store carbon and nitrogen. Pluton’s proof-of-concept research predicts that such a consortia of microbes, applied in a spray at planting and harvest, can scrub nearly two tons of carbon from the air per acre of farmland per year, while replenishing nutrients in the soil.

“We are very excited that Bayer has elected to partner with Pluton in advancing Bayer’s global initiative to reverse climate change,” said Pluton CEO Charlie Walch. “Pluton/Bayer’s carbon capture amendment will allow growers to improve soil health in the field by sequestering carbon from the air. Our amendment will give growers an easy, cost-effective way to tap into the carbon credit market as it matures. The carbon credit market is in its infancy but is growing rapidly – projected to become a $14B market by the end of this decade.”

Land management is the second largest contributor to carbon dioxide emissions in the world. Researchers estimate that farming through the ages has unearthed roughly 133 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere. Through photosynthesis, plants convert carbon dioxide from the air to produce energy. Plants deposit carbon in the soil through their roots, while releasing oxygen back into the atmosphere. When growers disturb the soil during planting and harvest, the carbon dioxide is released back into the atmosphere.

Long-term carbon storage in the soil can reduce atmospheric carbon and enhance food production systems to benefit the world. Carbon sequestration also benefits the grower by reducing nitrogen inputs, improving soil health and diversity, suppressing natural disease and providing potential carbon market income.

“Bayer is committed to helping reduce field greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 30% by 2030,” said Dr. Geoff Kneen, Bayer US – Crop Science, Research and Development, Innovation Sourcing. “By working collaboratively with partners like Pluton and the world’s farmers, our industry is uniquely positioned to sequester carbon on farms as well as provide global environmental benefits and grower incentives.”

Pluton advances development through Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator

Also just a few weeks ago, Pluton Biosciences announced its participation in the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2) program to generate a deeper understanding of how three novel bacteria work to kill disease-carrying mosquitoes.

As a member of IN2’s seventh cohort, Pluton conducted research and development activities at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, as a program partner with the world’s largest independent plant science institute. Danforth’s biochemistry expertise has helped Pluton researchers unravel the chemistry behind three novel bioinsecticides discovered in 2017.

Pluton also received $250,000 in technical assistance with the opportunity for follow-on funding and access to the state-of-the-art expertise and resources from the Danforth Center, Wells Fargo, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and other IN2 partners. Companies selected for the program share a focus on developing technologies that support the agricultural sector while reducing environmental impact.

“The collaboration between the Danforth Center and Pluton has been an example of IN2 at its best, utilizing the strengths and expertise of our scientists and facilities to help an early-stage company validate an early technology and work through technical hurdles,” said Dr. Claire Kinlaw, Director of Innovation Commercialization at the Danforth Center. “In the case of Pluton, we were excited to help chemically characterize novel compounds derived from microbes. We are very pleased to have supported Pluton’s creative entrepreneurial team.”

For the past year, Pluton has collaborated with Danforth Center Principal Investigator Dr. Toni Kutchan and researcher Dr. Santosh Kumar to understand the novel bacteria’s unique characteristics.

“Dr. Kutchan is a world expert in the chemical analysis of natural products. Our collaboration with Drs. Kutchan and Kumar allowed us to rapidly understand the chemical nature of our bioinsecticides and inform their development into next-generation products,” said Pluton Founder/Director of Research Ann Guggisberg, PhD. “We are grateful to have been selected to participate in the IN2 program and to work alongside such outstanding scientists.”

Bottom Line

With over 1 trillion species of microbes on the planet, and only about 1 in a million have been described, Pluton Biosciences has its work cut out for it, but their fast and innovative process and Micromining Innovation Engine tool is the key to realizing the potential of undiscovered microbes. With this seed round funding of $6.6 million, the Bayer AG deal, the Wells Fargo incubator participation, we anticipate much more news coming from Pluton soon. They are in fact “breaking ground” and being “ground breaking” as their name implies.

 

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