Beyond Biotech podcast 3: Ariceum Therapeutics, TWB, Unilever

July 1, 2022 - 9 minutes
Photo/Labiotech

On this week’s podcast, we have three conversations: with Manfred Rüdiger, CEO of Ariceum Therapeutics; Jon Hague, Unilever’s R&D VP for homecare; and Olivier Rolland, executive director at TWB.

Ambrosia and Dionymer winners at 2022 TWB Start-Up Day

TWB, which sets up industrial biotechnology R&D projects and designer of innovative and sustainable solutions, announces the two winning start-ups of the TWB START-UP DAY. 

The “Fast track it!” competition, aimed at start-ups under eight years old in the development phase, was won by Ambrosia Bio, while the “Go for it!” category, aimed at entrepreneurs at the idea and creation stage, was won by Dionymer. 

For its fifth edition, which took place on June 21, 2022, the event brought together 10 speakers and 200 industry professionals from 12 countries. It was an opportunity to discover the latest innovations in the biotech sector: renewable and sustainable carbon value chains, alternative leather, cellular meat, new materials, calorie-free sugars, and more.

Ambrosia Bio tops Fast track it! competition

Israeli start-up Ambrosia Bio won over the jury with its technology platform that enables the design of new enzymes to transform industrial sugars into rare, low-calorie sugars. 

Ambrosia Bio offers sugar, starch and fruit juice manufacturers a way to meet consumers’ expectations for sugar reduction without affecting the taste experience. Its patented enzymes have been proven to perform well under strict conditions.

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“We are very pleased to win this competition as it represents the first step in our collaboration with TWB and we look forward to beginning to work with their experts and partners. Overweight and obesity may not be infectious diseases, but they have reached epidemic proportions worldwide. Together, we could improve the production process and provide a cost-effective solution to overweight-related diseases,” said Ziv Zwighaft, co-founder and CEO of Ambrosia Bio.

This start-up wins €50,000 ($52,650) in the form of services provided on TWB’s technology platforms and communication opportunities offered by Bioeconomy For Change & Agri Sud-Ouest Innovation.

Dionymer takes Go for it!

Dionymer, a French start-up co-founded by three engineer friends, won the “Go for it!” competition. The company has committed to the circular economy by developing a technology that converts organic waste into biodegradable polymer materials (polyesters) to replace petroleum-based compounds in a multitude of applications.

“We are very happy and proud to receive this award. It means a lot to us and confirms our ability to make a real impact. With the support of TWB and its ecosystem, we will be able to accelerate and scale up to accomplish our goal of using organic waste to fuel a truly circular chemical industry”, said Thomas Hennebel, co-founder & CEO of Dionymer.

The start-up will benefit from four days of mentoring provided by TWB and its ecosystem of industrialists and investors. 

Collaboration at the heart of a booming sustainable biotech industry

Among the speakers, Rasmus Von Gottberg, head of development at Genomatica, and David Sourdive, co-founder and executive vice president of Cellectis, emphasized the need to establish partnerships to accelerate the development of products based on industrial biotechnologies.

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“Consumer demand for sustainable and eco-responsible solutions is growing, and with it the demand for greater profitability from manufacturers. To achieve this, collaboration between start-ups, researchers, investors and manufacturers is essential,” said Olivier Rolland, executive director at TWB. 

New in this year’s event was a networking opportunity to promote innovation. This year, start-ups, scientists and business experts from TWB, major industrial groups, technology companies and investors exchanged ideas and visited the premises of TWB and CRITT Bio-Industries. The goal was to encourage collaborations and discussions between each actor of the value chain to accelerate innovation and promote synergies.

Ariceum Therapeutics completes financing round

Ariceum Therapeutics, a private biotech company developing a radiopharmaceutical product for the diagnosis and systemic targeted radiation therapy of certain hard-to-treat cancers, has completed an oversubscribed €25M ($26.7M) Series A financing round. 

Ariceum was co-founded by EQT Life Sciences (formerly LSP) and HealthCap, which also co-led the financing that was joined by Pureos Bioventures. Ipsen transferred assets, and all corresponding rights into the company in late 2021.

Ariceum said the financing will enable it to further develop its lead asset and proprietary peptide derivative, satoreotide. Satoreotide is a radiopharmaceutical drug and an antagonist of the somatostatin type 2 (SST2) receptor, which is overexpressed in many cancers, including certain hard-to-treat cancers such as small cell lung cancer (SCLC), high-grade neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) and neuroblastoma, an aggressive, rare type of cancer that occurs mainly in young children. 

Satoreotide is in early clinical development and has been administered to more than 100 patients.

Founded in 2021, Ariceum is headquartered in Berlin, with operations in Germany and activities in Europe, North America and Australia.

Related to the financing, Karin Kleinhans, partner at EQT Life Sciences, Per Samuelsson, partner at HealthCap and Martin Münchbach, managing partner at Pureos Bioventures will join Ariceum’s board of directors together with Eduardo Bravo, CEO of EBAC, who has been elected chairman of the board.

Manfred Rüdiger, CEO of Ariceum Therapeutics, said the company is working on advancing satoreotide for systemic targeted radiation therapy (STRT) to visualize and treat neuroendocrine tumors and certain other more aggressive cancers.

Kleinhans added, “We founded Ariceum with the aim to build a European leader in targeted radiopharmaceuticals.  We are delighted to support the company in the development of its innovative technology to create more effective treatments for patients suffering from hard-to-treat cancers which are currently not adequately addressed by existing therapies, in addition to neuroendocrine cancers expressing the receptor.”

Münchbach said the company will be able to develop better targeted drugs to eradicate cancer more effectively with less side-effects.The increasing commercial and clinical potential of radiopharmaceuticals has led to growing big pharma and investor interest in the last decade. And earlier this year, European venture capital firms Jeito, Forbion, and Inkef Capital teamed up to boost the radiopharmaceutical scene by investing €80M ($85.5M) in the Belgian firm Precirix.

Clean and green: Unilever and Geno launch $120m palm oil alternatives venture

Unilever and U.S. biotech company Genomatica (Geno) are working on a plan to scale and commercialize alternatives to palm oil and fossil fuel-derived cleansing ingredients.

The companies said due to growing demand for sustainably-sourced palm oil, they aim to deliver new responsibly-sourced palm oil alternatives to the market.

With $120m jointly invested in the newly-formed initiative, and with other strategic investors expected to join, the venture will develop an alternative, plant-based ingredient using biotechnology. 

The innovation is relevant to cleaning and personal care products that require ingredients to lather and lift dirt. Currently, there are few viable alternatives to palm and fossil sources that can be produced at scale in order to make those ingredients. 

Surfactants are the key ingredients in shampoo, body wash, soap, laundry detergents and other cleaning products. While all these product formulations are vastly different to each other, the surfactant is the ingredient in each of them that helps them to clean by lathering and lifting dirt.  At present, the majority of surfactants are made either using palm kernel oil derivatives or petrochemical sources. 

This new venture provides another option for this critical ingredient.

This is why Unilever and Geno believe the efforts can tap into the combined $625 billion home and personal care markets. For Unilever, one of the world’s biggest soap and detergent manufacturers, this is the largest investment in biotechnology alternatives to palm oil to date.

Geno is already starting to scale the process to produce the ingredients. Beyond creating a newly transparent supply chain, initial estimates have shown companies could reduce the carbon footprint of palm-derived ingredients by up to 50% with this technology-driven, plant-based alternative.

Companies like Unilever, whose products are used globally by 3.4 billion people each day, are increasingly partnering with biotech companies like Geno to explore, develop, and manufacture new versions of traditionally-sourced ingredients.

Unilever said palm oil will remain an important feedstock, but alternative ingredients can play a growing role in diversifying supply chains to drive optionality, sustainability and cost management.

‘Revolutionizing cleansing ingredients’

Unilever’s chief R&D officer, Richard Slater, said: “Biotechnology has the potential to revolutionize the sourcing of our cleansing ingredients and ensure Unilever is a future-fit business – for consumers, shareholders and the planet we all share. This new venture will sit at the intersection of science and sustainability, meaning we can continue to grow our business without relying only on palm oil or fossil fuel derivatives and at the same time make our supply chains more resilient through having access to ingredient alternatives.

“We will be marrying science and nature to make sure there is no tradeoff for our consumers between the efficacy and sustainability of their products. We are building this innovative new venture to have the scale to drive real impact and change in our industry, reinventing the chemistry of home and personal care products for the 21st Century.”

Christophe Schilling, Geno CEO added: “Geno’s collaboration with Unilever builds upon its strong track record of partnering with market leaders who are committed to accelerating the commercialization of sustainable materials in their industries – from clothing to now cleaning ingredients. We’ve developed our technology in response to our planet’s urgent climate crisis and we’ve proven that biotechnology can replace traditional production methods to produce ingredients with bio-based sources that deliver both high-performance and sustainability, at scale.

“Our technology enables pathways for alternative sourcing of materials whose supply chains often have limited social and environmental transparency, by offering more resilient supply chains that are transparent, traceable and responsibly-sourced as demanded by consumers. Beyond creating new transparent and responsibly sourced-supply chains and alternatively-sourced materials, our Geno technology also represents the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100 million tons in upcoming years.”

About Geno

In response to the climate crisis, Geno has spent the last 20 years developing and scaling sustainable materials derived from plant- or waste-based feedstocks instead of fossil fuels. Geno’s technology drives materials and ingredients in applications ranging from cosmetics, carpets, to home cleaners, apparel and more.

Geno converts plant-based raw materials into chemical building blocks that are key components of widely-used materials. 

The company has already partnered with several companies such as Lululemon athletica, Covestro AG, Asahi Kasei and Cargill-Helm. 

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