David Friedberg, an ex-Googler, has emerged as an unlikely champion of Monsanto at a time when the company—and the business of genetically engineering crops that it pioneered—face intensifying attacks.
He IS a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, but George Church is also a vegan, cannot hold a tune, gave up driving due to narcolepsy and suffers…
What our grow tents will look like in the future
We have some extra news to share with you this month, we’ve been accepted by Y Combinator as part of this summer’s batch of startups and will present our plants at Demo Day next Tuesday. We are one of the first ever biotech companies they have accepted into their program and of course this would never have happened without your amazing support.
Why did we join the program?
We started working on Glowing Plants because we have a long term vision to bring genetically engineered organisms to the masses and to develop our plants to the level where they are bright enough to be used for broader lighting applications. Y Combinator is the most widely known and successful accelerator program in the world, and are the best people to help us realize that vision.
Serendipitously at around that time Y Combinator announced their ‘breakthrough technologies’ request for proposals so we applied and were accepted. One of the benefits for you as backers is that we are now going to be able to ship earlier than we were otherwise planning, we will now have funds to ship to you both the first early prototype (which we’ve been showing at the demos in our lab and which we plan to ship later this year), as well as version 2.0 which will come when we have improved the luminosity (estimated to ship a year later) to a brighter level.
So why is Y Combinator, traditionally a software accelerator, working with us?
In our Kickstarter campaign, we talked about how the Glowing Plant was a symbol for the coming synthetic biology revolution. Y Combinator is investing in the space for many of the reasons we are so optimistic about what’s going to be possible with that revolution. Here are the key ones:
1. Cost of launching a biotech startup is falling faster than software and has reached the cost level where Y Combinator started investing in 2004: This is driven by:
- Availability of on-demand bench space (eg QB3, Biosciences Laboratories, Biocurious, StartX):
- Smaller, more nimble teams, powered by outsourcing, eg: software eats labwork Transcriptic, Emerald, Synthego, Science Exchange
- Falling costs of inputs: Exponential fall in costs of reading and writing DNA, Increased affordability of automation/robotics, Open source protocols and libraries of parts
4. New forms of capital, like crowdfunding and accelerators, enable startups to fund the development of prototypes
5. Scientists see increasing value in becoming entrepreneurs, mirroring the rise of developers who became successful entrepreneurs in the early 2000’s. Startups are becoming more attractive than traditional academic jobs because:
- Increasing time to tenure
- Reduced availability of grant funding, coupled with increased time that must be spent on applications
- Wider education of key skills required, eg accelerators and university bio incubators
7. New capabilities are enabled by big data and the computer revolution. Genomics, proteomics, etc. (“’omics”) has created a world where “biology can be turned into data” and biological systems can be represented as data systems
It’s been really interesting and valuable going through the YC process. We will write a longer update on what we’ve learned from YC in the future once we have some more perspective and things quieten down post Demo Day, for now it’s back to working on the plants and getting ready to present next week. As usual let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.
The Glowing Plant team
Synthetic biology startup Glowing Plant will join Ginkgo Bioworks in the Y Combinator family.
Why would you want to make a plant glow? Why not? All it takes is a little biohacking.
Long known for backing software plays, Y Combinator is starting to dip its toes into biotech. In its latest batch is a new synthetic biology startup called glowing plant
Neil Tyson tells gmo critics to chill out. Finally some sense in the debate! You list all the fruit, and all the vegetables, and ask yourself, is there a wild counterpart to this? If there is, it’s not as large, it’s not as sweet, it’s not as juicy, and it has way more seeds in it.”