Why we Invested in Biotechnology - MyoWorks and D-NOME

The Bio-Revolution in India is here and we are backing MyoWorks and D-NOME to drive the change!

Photo by Drew Hays

We are in the third decade of the 21st century and the earth is feeling the heat, quite literally. Global temperatures are rising, causing irreversible losses to the environment. Pandemics are causing massive loss of human lives and the associated livelihoods. Global agricultural and food production systems have become unequipped to feed the growing population. These are massive challenges and will require disruptive solutions driven by deep science and technology innovations to counter them. Among the most promising of which is BIOTECHNOLOGY.

Bio-Revolution, as a report by Mckinsey states, has been decades in the making, driven by a massive increase in the technological capabilities to decode and engineer biological data as well as using computing, automation, and artificial intelligence to analyse and predict biological outcomes. Take for instance genomic sequencing — the speed of sequencing has catapulted to more than 100 terabytes per day which has coincided with the drop in sequencing costs from 100 million per genome in the early 2000s to less than $1000 in 2021! From healthcare to food production and industrial chemical products, biotechnology has the potential to supply close to 60 % of the physical inputs and products to the global economy. Whether it’s growing animal tissues in the fermenters to replace the traditional meat burgers or using synthetic biology and protein engineering to enable rapid molecular diagnostics, biotechnology can do wonders. With around 400 use cases currently identified, it could have an economic impact of more than $4 trillion per year over the next two decades and drive the world towards a sustainable future.

The Indian venture capital industry has seen tremendous growth over the last decade leading the digital revolution in the country. However, biotechnology has remained the neglected perennial. Yes the digital revolution is exciting, but biotechnology could be disruptive, and have a deeper impact on multiple markets across the world. We at Ankur Capital are excited about the impact of the Bio-Revolution. But we do realize — ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. Through TechSprouts, we are building a strong cooperative ecosystem to raise the next line of disruptive biotechnology companies in the country and we are backing these companies with risk capital. Having seen the growth of the field from close quarters over the last decade through our association with BIRAC, we are extremely excited to add to our portfolio, two of the most innovative startups in the Indian biotechnology market- MyoWorks and D-NOME, who are using biotechnology to impact the food and healthcare industries respectively.

MyoWorks Founders : Nihal Singh and Shubhankar Takle

MyoWorks is building edible fungal mycelium-based 2D and 3D scaffolds which will support the production of cultivated meat products. The last decade has seen cultured meat production costs decrease by multiple folds, driven by research and development activities across the world. However, one of the key challenges in the cultivated meat market is to replicate the multicellular complexity in the animal meat architecture. The sophistication lies in the size, shape, vasculature, and the texture of the products. Advancements in the scaffolds will be critical in the development cycle of cultured meat products. Scaffolds that can mimic real tissue environments will help achieve faster consumer acceptance and reduce manufacturing costs further. The company aims to create an ecosystem of ancillary products that will facilitate any cultivated-meat company’s vision to replace real meat products with in-vitro meat.

Experts believe the cultivated meat market could grow to more than $25 billion by 2030. McKinsey reports that coupled with the innovations and economies of scale (annual production of more than 1.5 million tonnes), cultured meat will attain cost parity by 2030 and should be available for less than $5 per pound of meat. Scaffolds are expected to contribute close to 5% of the meat weight, making it a multibillion-dollar industry itself.

We met childhood friends Nihal Singh and Shubhankar Takle, the co-founders of MyoWorks at SINE IIT Bombay and quickly realized their passion for solving the problems in the cultured meat industry. Nihal brings Marketing, Business Development and Operational experience while Shubhankar is a Mechanical Engineer with experience in Material Sciences. They have an R&D team of experienced molecular biologists, cell line engineers and process technologists, passionately working towards the company’s vision of developing products for cultured meat and other allied industries. We are very excited to work with MyoWorks as they enable the world to move towards a sustainable food production system.

D-NOME Founders : Divya Sriram and Sujoy Deb

D-NOME is developing a molecular diagnostic platform solution based on loop mediated isothermal amplification technology (D-LAMP) with applications in human infectious diseases, livestock screening, agriculture molecular techniques and next generation genomic sequencing.

The demand for early detection of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis B and C, HIV, HPV, UTIs, HAIs as well as oncology and genetic testing is increasing due to their rising prevalence across the world. The market for molecular diagnostics saw a growth of more than 230% YoY in 2019–20 and is valued at more than $ 20 billion.

The major bottleneck for diagnostic labs and hospitals in scaling up molecular techniques like RT-PCR or sequencing are the high operational costs and delayed turnaround time. Currently used techniques are complex- they use multi-step protocols (3–5 steps), require high temperature settings, complex and expensive machines, multiple reagents and skilled technicians, thereby restricting their demand in cost-constrained settings and leading to low profit margins for labs. LAMP technology is a low cost alternative to PCR technology and has the potential to be used at the Point of Care (PoC). While PCR needs to incorporate controlled heating cycles for amplification, DLAMP, D-NOME’s proprietary technology, enables amplification of DNA/RNA at room temperature without the use of any complex machinery. The company has been able to achieve this by using synthetic biology and advanced protein engineering techniques. The technology has shown very high sensitivity and specificity. The company has also built the expertise to design proprietary primers specific for different disease profiles including COVID-19, TB (various strains), Hospital Acquired Infections (Antimicrobial Resistant Strains) and many more.

Divya Sriram and Sujoy Deb completed their training in cancer biology and stem cell research from CCMB Hyderabad. Although they had met during their PhD days, Sujoy and Divya met each other again at the Entrepreneur First cohort where they conceived the idea of forming D-NOME. The core team is highly experienced in research and product development, having spent years in the lab, honing their skills in molecular biology, genomics and protein engineering. The company was also the winner of the Hello Tomorrow Global Deep Tech Challenge in the Medical Biotech & Pharmaceuticals category, 2021. We are very excited to partner with D-NOME in their journey to transform the healthcare diagnostics market around the world.

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