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Bota Bio Raises $100 Million As Biology Disrupts The Chemical Industry With Sustainable Manufacturing

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the world that many supply chains are not sustainable during a crisis. At the same time, the rapid need for diagnostic tools and vaccines during the pandemic showed that the biotechnology industry can move quickly to solve critical, global problems.

Although much of public awareness for bioengineering has focused on the pandemic, consumer demand for more sustainable products has also grown. The devastating effects of pollution from chemical manufacturing and petrochemicals are impossible to ignore, and many companies want greener solutions. Chemical manufacturers are also looking for more sustainable manufacturing processes. 

Today, Bota Bio, a global industrial biotechnology company, announced it has raised $100 million in Series B financing led by Sequoia Capital China to advance sustainable biomanufacturing. This brings its total funding to $145 million. The company plans to expand global operations and build a lab-to-pilot scale platform to facilitate the rapid scale-up and deployment of its product pipeline in consumer goods, food, nutrition, and pharmaceutical products.

Making Manufacturing More Sustainable

“We founded the company because we recognize that biomanufacturing can have a positive impact on the environment, especially on traditional chemical industries,” says Cheryl Cui, co-founder and CEO of Bota Bio.

Cui, who was honored as one of the MIT Innovators Under 35 in 2020, is part of a team of veterans in synthetic biology and biotechnology that came together to advance clean manufacturing where it is needed most. Their goal is to leverage the power of biology to accelerate the design and manufacture of high-performance products using sustainable processes.  

Its technology platform, known as the Bota Freeway, integrates advanced digital tools with lab automation. Bota Bio expands beyond the design-build-test-learn cycle to include downstream process development and select non-traditional microbial strains, accelerating the design and evolution of enzymes and cell-based factories.

“Bota Bio offers a diverse set of products and services, including technical support, computation, enzyme engineering, and strain engineering for fermentation. We try to pick the best technology to make the product, and our technology can reduce engineering time by about 50% compared to traditional manufacturing,” says Cui.

Although the pilot plant will be in Asia, the Bota Bio team has global ambitions. It plans to use Series B financing to build the pilot plant, so it can accommodate a variety of different products and expand its platform. The company is focused on rapid development and iteration. Ultimately, it wants to expand product development, scale it, and bring products to commercialization.

Bota Bio is able to tap into local manufacturing capabilities that allow it to do fast prototyping and development. It uses high-precision fermentation with auto-sampling and minimizes human interactions to collect as much data as possible. High-precision fermentation uses novel sensor technologies to monitor the growth and metabolic state of the microbial strains.

Design Anywhere

The pandemic has shown the importance of staying flexible and being able to work from anywhere. Bota Bio is able to design anywhere because the team is distributed and has the infrastructure and right project management systems for fast iteration. Being nimble has allowed the company to understand its customers’ problems better.

“Our model is that you come to us with a problem, and we work with you to find the total solution. It could be the entire manufacturing process or just the upstream design of the microbes. And I think that is how we are different,” says Cui.

Many of its customers do not come from biology backgrounds, so Bota Bio acts as the interpreter between biotechnology and traditional industry to figure out the gaps and where they can help. Biology can change manufacturing by making it more sustainable.

Thank you to Lana Bandoim for additional research and reporting in this article. I’m the founder of SynBioBeta, and some of the companies that I write about are sponsors of the SynBioBeta conference and weekly digest. 

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