Capra Biosciences (Capra) today officially announced it has raised $1.8 million in an oversubscribed pre-seed funding round to advance their continuous-flow bioreactor technology, which changes the economics of making sustainable petrochemical replacements using biology. Capra will use the funding to build their production-scale reactor and extend its capabilities to include the production of lubricants.
Located in the Prince William Science Accelerator, the company works at the intersection of biology and hardware engineering to build a new kind of continuous flow bioreactor that leverages the unique features of their platform organism. Capra Biosciences emerged from the competitive IndieBio program backed by SOSV. Pre-seed investors include Prithvi Ventures; the E14 Fund; GS Futures; Antimo’s president – Wes Osbourn; Savantus Ventures; Asymmetry Ventures; the Decarbonization Consortium; and SOSV, among others.
“Reaching this funding milestone is important because our production-scale reactor is modular,” said Dr. Andrew Magyar, Capra’s co-founder and chief technology officer. “Much like a data center’s capacity grows as it adds individual hard drives, our platform’s ability to produce chemicals at scale grows with each bioreactor we add. This enables us to avoid many of the scale-up challenges experienced in traditional bioreactors. The funding allows us to move quickly into our production scale bioreactor.”
“Capra Biosciences is the kind of bioscience success story the Prince William Science Accelerator was built to grow,” said Christina Winn, executive director, Prince William County Department of Economic Development. “Congratulations on a tremendous pre-seed raise and we look forward to supporting Capra through their future expansions!”
Capra’s first product is retinol, a highly lucrative cosmetic ingredient used in anti-aging products. Capra’s novel approach to retinol production uses biology rather than fossil fuels for production, unlike other products currently on the market.
The company is also pursuing several aviation and industrial lubricants for future production phases. Like retinol, the $150B lubricant market is closely linked to petrochemicals. Capra is breaking the link to fossil fuels and providing a cleaner, more sustainable path for lubricant production. The company makes renewable products using sources of carbon that don’t compete with food sources or divert undeveloped land towards agricultural production.
“Even most climate-focused VCs haven’t thought about the massive, $150B lubricants market. But they should. 20% of the world’s energy is spent overcoming friction,” said Po Bronson, managing director of IndieBio and general partner at SOSV. “All motors and all moving parts need lubricants – from robots to spacecraft, to machines and elevators. The secret is that biology can make sophisticated compounds that petroleum chemistry cannot, enabling performance characteristics that make machines last longer.”
Capra's co-founder and CEO, Dr. Elizabeth Onderko, invented the company’s bioreactor technology as a postdoctoral associate at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) along with her advisor Dr. Sarah Glaven, federal employee Dr. Matthew Yates, and Dr. Magyar.
The Capra team continues to support the development of this technology to address Department of Defense needs through a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA).
"This partnership is a prime example for how fundamental research can be developed, matured, and successfully transitioned from NRL benchtop to commercial partner. The Technology Transfer Office often facilitates these types of efforts through various mechanisms which aim to incentivize businesses and bring forth investment capital," said Dr. Stephen Deese, NRL Partnership Manager.
"We’re excited to make products that create a positive impact on the world, while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions,” said Dr. Onderko. “Our production scale reactor empowers us to place samples of retinol, Capra’s first product, into customers hands for evaluation - our first step to decarbonizing the chemical industry. Next up we’re developing sustainable, high-performance lubricants and many other chemical products – allowing us to start reducing the more than three gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions from chemical manufacturing. The potential for our technology is massive, and we’re very thankful to our investors for sharing in our vision."
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