Ready to Eat, Ready to Wear, Ready to Move, Ready to Go: a look at the Bio World Congress plenary sessions and the shift in industrial biotechnology : Biofuels Digest


This July, industrial biotech returns to its largest and grandest stage at the BIO World Congress, which convenes in Philadelphia on July 16th through the 19th, and the plenary program brings CRISPR technology under the klieg lights and moves into the world of pret-a-porter — the biobased type— as the industry’s opportunities turn towards advanced materials and even high fashion with novel, high-value functionality. It’s high style and high value, combined.

Each day, the industry is reaching deeper into the genome and deeper into the consumer lifestyle, and a full panel on advanced materials and on CRISPR is convincing proof. But let’s also not overlook the revolution in agriculture that is re-shaping the feedstocks and supply chain, where industrial biochemical products are sustainably changing the way we enhance crop yield, grow new stuff, and protect it from the parasites, predators, and pathogens that beset those amber waves of grain, that farmers would like to bioconvert to amber waves of gain.

It’s all going down in Philly, where a group of elite farmers, merchants lawyers and national security hawks gathered some 242 years ago to sign the Declaration of Independence — these days, the same constituencies are still around but are seen more often in biotech meetings than in Independence Hall. This year, the main stage is over at the Philadelphia Convention Center, and it’s a must-do, must-see on the industrial biotechnology calendar,

The Lean Green Gene Machine

CRISPR and Gene Editing Tools to Advance Industrial Biotechnology.

Gene editing tools are revolutionizing the production of consumer products from food ingredients and intermediates, to packaging and household supplies. The panel will highlight the opportunities and challenges for the broad application of gene editing technology in industrial biosciences. In addition, panelists will address appropriate communication and public engagement for these innovative technologies, and what it takes to gain public license to commercialize these products.

On stage are Roger Wyse, Spruce Capital Partners; Stephan Herrera, Evolva; John Melo, Amyris; Sylvia Rowe, SR Strategy, LLC; Doane Chilcoat, Corteva Agriscience, agriculture division of DowDuPont

On the Fashion and Materials Biotech Runway

Biobased Materials Redesigning Consumer Markets and Fashion Trends

The industry’s guru should have been Coco Chanel, who wrote: Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening, and “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”

As consumers demand for sustainable apparel increases, biobased producers stand ready to deliver innovative, renewable solutions, while maintaining material performance. The panelists will discuss the perception of renewably sourced materials, new innovations in the space, and the opportunities and challenges to marketing and commercializing biobased consumer products.

On stage are Jim Lane, The Digest; Kimberly Falkenhayn, Okabashi Brands ; Jens Klein, AmSilk; Christophe Schilling, Genomatica, Inc.

The New Stuff Behind the Right Stuff

Industrial Biotechnology Innovation for Feedstock Production Applications

Agriculture feeds the industrial biotechnology supply chain. At the same time, industrial biotech companies are creating innovative microbial and biochemical products to enhance ag production. From greater yield production to controlling pests and diseases, to changing the way a plant grows root systems, biotech companies are actively working to increase the health of the microbiome and to heal, fuel, and feed a growing global population. The panelists will discuss the innovative products currently employed in this space, as well as market trends in biorefinery feedstock production and future potential for this growing sector.

On stage are Paul Zorner, Locus Agricultural Solutions; Richard Broglie, Pivot Bio; Matt McKnight, Ginkgo Bioworks; Jenny Rooke, Genoa Ventures; Shawn Semones, Concentric

Wait there’s more: GreenTech Investor Sessions

The BIO World Congress will showcase the GreenTech Investor Sessions which provides high visibility for early-stage emerging industrial biotechnology companies and venture opportunities for VC investors, analysts, angel investors, and strategic partners. The GreenTech Sessions are held on Tuesday, July 17th of the conference and will feature companies such as DMC Biotechnologies, Inc., a metabolic engineering startup with a mission to unleash the manufacturing power of biology by reducing biological complexity; Triton Algae Innovations, a company devoted to unleashing the potential of algae for sustainable health and nutrition; and Photanol, a platform renewable chemicals company that utilizes proprietary engineered cyanobacteria to process carbon dioxide (CO2) and sunlight into valuable chemical products. Investors from BASF Venture Capital, Spruce Capital, BP ventures, Ultra Capital, Cargill, Sustainable Conversion Ventures, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, and Emerald Technology Ventures are some of the spotlight investor attendees this year.

Takeaways from the World Congress line-up this year?

What’s most interesting this year, seen from our conning tower, is the shift from early-stage tp later-stage stakeholders — specifically, companies using these technologies to change the way people live rather than just companies making new stuff, or the technology to make new stuff, or the financiers building companies to make technology to make new stuff. All of the latter are in evidence, and they should be.

But in addition to pros like Roger Wyse, Spruce Capital Partners, Stephan Herrera of Evolva or Christophe Schilling of Genomatica, we see Doane Chilcoat of Corteva Agriscience and Kimberly Falkenhayn of Okabashi Brands. We’ve seen the likes of Coca-Cola and IKEA in the past — driven in most cases by sustainability concerns and seeing the opportunity therein. But here we have companies reaching not only for sustainability but functional advantages. Fibers that are stronger and more flexible, molecules that produce faster and cheaper, crops that grow larger and healthier.

As with last year we note a shift away from the tradition of policymakers and consultants talking up the promise of industrial biotech and the opportunities they see for market access and decarbonizing the economy. The themes have changed from mission-definition, role-definition and technology-definition to solution adoption and consumer adoption. From definition to adoption — that’s a potent and welcome sign of the times.

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