The following was provided while participating in the 2023 Destination Startup® Showcase.
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What We Do
Cascade Biocatalysts makes enzymes rugged and reliable for widespread adoption in chemical manufacturing, reducing the cost and environmental impact of diverse manufacturing processes.
Affiliated Institution: University of Colorado Boulder
Have we formed a company? Yes
Our Company and the Problem We Are Trying To Solve
Nature does chemistry better, producing complex molecules using sustainable starting materials without waste. Recent developments in DNA technology, data science, and high throughput laboratory experimentation enable engineering of organisms to produce chemicals from renewable feedstocks without hazardous and expensive waste. However, so called “biomanufacturing” relies on fermentation, a unit operation going back millenia. Despite significant investment, biomanufacturing has had limited success. Cells perform numerous tasks required for life, introducing energy and material inefficiencies. Fermentations must be done under conditions amenable to life, limiting manufacturing to water soluble and non-toxic chemicals. Cell-free biomanufacturing overcomes these limitations by removing the machinery (enzymes and cofactors) from the cell. Cell-free biomanufacturing is a drop in replacement for numerous existing chemical manufacturing processes and eliminates hazardous wastes, reduces process energy, and uses inexpensive and renewable feedstocks. The number one challenge facing cell-free biomanufacturing is the short operating lifetimes of enzymes when removed from a cell. We are targeting active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) manufacturing as a beachhead market. These customers have experience implementing enzymes in chemical manufacturing processes. The number one concern in API manufacturing is time, and we provide an alternative to 9 month long enzyme engineering campaigns with a process that takes hours. Cascade Biocatalysts provided samples to Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) for pharmaceutical synthesis and Invizyne for commodity chemical manufacturing and have received excellent feedback. We have filed a PCT application, received favorable search results from the international searching authority, and are currently determining the jurisdictions in which we need protection.
Our Go-to-Market Strategy
We will sell into the $5 B biocatalyst market, a part of the $30 B catalyst market, with our improved enzyme immobilization product. The biocatalyst market has been growing ~5-10% as biology becomes easier to engineer and more companies leverage enzymes for sustainable chemical reactions, including: 1. Pharma companies such as Pfizer and Merck are increasing their use of enzymes in drug manufacturing 2. Traditional chemistry players like BASF are adding enzymatic steps to their industrial processes to make their processes greener 3. New synthetic biology start-ups are using enzymes to produce chemicals, consumer products, fabrics and more. A new wave of ‘cell-free’ companies has emerged in the last two years alone and are actively developing their biocatalytic processes Our product outperforms both industry incumbents (Purolite, Resindion) and new start-ups (EnginZyme, Zymtronix, FabricNano). We are the only generalizable platform solution that can be catered to specific enzymes and builds on proven industrial technology. By catering to specific enzymes, we will have a performance advantage relative to unoptimized resins. As part of our go-to market, we are prioritizing understanding who is using our competitor’s products today and how we can show these customers the superior properties of our product. To get our foot in the door with these companies, we will leverage our connections in synthetic biology (through Alex’s previous role) and connect with the thought leaders in pharma on biocatalysis (through conferences and mutual connections). James provided samples to a pharma and synbio company and we have received good feedback.
How We Will Generate Revenue
As use of enzymes and biocatalysts grows both in therapeutic and chemical manufacturing, we aim to capture a large share of this growing market. Every new enzyme used offers both a process development and recurring revenue opportunity for us. We plan to charge upfront fees for our solution and then receive recurring revenues on the biocatalysts and resins we sell to customers. We’ll start in the enzyme immobilization business where we can make $10,000 - $100,000’s per enzyme, with an estimated customer lifetime value over a million dollars per enzyme based on recurring revenue through scaleup. Our product, once implemented in early stage process development, becomes a ‘sticky’ solution our customers will keep using and buying more of as products move from research stage towards commercialization. As we gain customer traction, we aim to sell the full biocatalyst (enzyme + immobilization) - helping simplify our customer’s operations. We have seen companies like Codexis make over $20M in a single sale of biocatalyst to Pfizer for just one drug. As we move to make the whole enzyme, and potentially the whole reactor, we will capture more of the margin on the sale. Eventually, we will be a platform where customers can come to us with a molecule they want to make or a feedstock they want to transform, and we can use our growing database and catalog of immobilized enzymes to quickly and systematically help them. We can then stack these enzymes to help customers quickly incorporate biology into their processes.
How We Will Benefit From Destination Startup®
We will be raising a $5 million seed round of venture capital in early 2023 and Destination startup is the perfect opportunity to share our technology and business to investors. We are well connected in the venture capital and biotechnology ecosystems in the greater New York City area but we are looking for connections in the greater Rocky Mountain region. In addition to our raise, we are always looking for additional team members with significant experience in synthetic biology, small molecule pharmaceuticals, and chemical manufacturing spaces.
Cascade Biocatalysts is cofounded by James Weltz, the chief scientific officer of Cascade Biocatalysts. Dr. James Weltz invented the underlying technology while a graduate student at the University of Colorado Boulder and has nearly 10 years experience in the field. Through 50 customer discovery interviews, some conducted as part of the Ascent Accelerator program at the University of Colorado, James discovered that the number one technical challenge limiting the adoption of sustainable chemical manufacturing is the marginal stability and short operating lifetimes of enzymes in industrial processes. James is joined by cofounder and CEO, Alex Rosay. Alex brings significant business strategy and synthetic biology expertise to Cascade Biocatalysts. Alex previously worked at Zymergen, a biomanufacturer, and has extensive knowledge on the potential markets for cell-free biomanufacturing.