A biomaterials startup using CRISPR gene-editing technology has raised $4.4 million in seed funding for its plant-based bio-peroxide technology. Solugen will use the funding to expand distribution of its bioperoxide and launch a consumer brand of household cleaning products. Investors in the round include Y Combinator, Refactor Capital, MIT, Liquid 2 Ventures and Social Capital Partnerships, among others.
Y Combinator and Refactor Capital also participated in the one-year-old startup’s undisclosed first seed round in March.
Solugen, which calls itself a “green chemistry” company, uses plant starch combined with specialized enzymes to manufacture a biological version of hydrogen peroxide (called Bioperoxide), a common household and industrial chemical used as an oxidizer, bleaching agent, and disinfectant.
Football legend Joe Montana and Liquid 2 Ventures founder said “They have been able to not only patent and demonstrate the effectiveness of their technology, but also bring it to market. Hydrogen peroxide is in innumerable household products, from toothpaste to household cleaners, and there are just as many potential applications for Bioperoxide.”
Founders Sean Hunt and Gaurab Chakrabarti have developed a proprietary micro-manufacturing platform, which combines an enzyme production method that uses the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing tool and a bio-reactor to create the substance. This process avoids the petroleum products used as a substrate in traditional peroxide manufacturing and leads to a safer end product, according to the company.
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“Hydrogen peroxide is recognized worldwide as a safe and effective cleaning ingredient, but is incredibly dangerous and energy-intensive to create and transport,” said Chakrabarti. “Sean and I wanted to not only develop a technology that reduces the waste and pollution in the production process but also create a purer product that would be clean and safe to use in our homes with our own families.”
From the company’s founding in early 2016, Solugen has sold bioperoxide as a cleaner for float spas, hot tubs, and pools, which landed the pair of founders on the 2017 Forbes 30 under 30 list for manufacturing. But the company recently pivoted to focus on its consumer brand and licensing “micro-manufacturing units” as opposed to selling the liquid itself.
Solugen’s goal is to license the manufacturing tech to large industrial chemical producers or even the end users of peroxide, who may wish to produce it on site. The units will be roughly the size of a brewery tank, but with an adaptable, modular design, according to the company.
With this round of funding, Solugen has also announced the launch of its first consumer brand “Ode to Clean,” which now contains a household wipe product wherein the wipe itself and the bioperoxide cleaner are made from plant starch. The wipes are compostable and biodegradable, and one dispenser pack, plus a refill pack, costs $18.