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Synthetic biology startup Lygos closes $13M Series A to target oil-based specialty chemical industry

Lygos, Inc., a bio-based specialty chemicals company, closed $13 million in Series A financing led by IA Ventures and OS Fund. Other investors include First Round Capital, the Y Combinator Continuity Fund, 50 Years and Vast Ventures, along with notable angel investors. Lygos produces high-value specialty chemical traditionally produced in oil-based petrochemical processes in a process that commercially proven, acid-tolerant yeast and domestic sugars instead of petroleum, and has pioneered the world’s first bio-based production of malonic acid (a C3-dicarboxylic acid). (Earlier post.)

The current process used to produce malonic acid requires sodium cyanide and chloroacetic acid; Lygos’ engineered yeast produces malonic acid from sugar and CO2. Many Lygos target products are organic acids—compounds that are expensive to synthesize using petrochemistry but can be produced at high theoretical yield microbially.

Source: Lygos. Click to enlarge.

A high yielding process means less sugar is required to produce each kilogram of product, decreasing operating costs and lowering exposure to changing raw material (e.g., corn) prices.

Source: Lygos. Click to enlarge.

For some compounds, a theoretical yield greater than 100% can be achieved by sinking carbon dioxide, Lygos notes. Low operating costs is a fundamental reason why microbial production of organic acids (e.g., itaconic, lactic, citric, and succinic acids) has been more successful than biofuels (e.g., farnesane, bio-diesel, butanol, and ethanol).

Lygos has already engineered and is shipping to customers the first Bio-malonic acid-producing microbes that are a replacement for the dangerous cyanide-based process that manufacturers currently use in this quarter billion dollar annual market.

We are delivering metric ton quantities of our Bio-malonic acid products to customers using Lygos’ technology that requires no fossil fuels, no cyanide, and no environmental degradation. We are excited to enter this next phase of growth and continue building our team, our manufacturing and QC infrastructure, all while providing more fuel for our innovation engine to develop the next new products using our microbial manufacturing technology.

—Eric Steen, co-founder and CEO of Lygos/div>

Lygos says it has created an engineering development platform that combines software and new biochemistry technology to engineer microbes optimized to produce the industry’s highest-quality specialty chemicals at scale much faster, safer, and more reliably than traditional petroleum-based production methods.

Most specialty chemicals manufactured from oil today can also be made using Lygos’ technology of engineered microbes with sugar and water.

This is the Industrial Revolution of synthetic biology. We look at synthetic biology as a greenfield opportunity. Lygos uniquely has the technology to produce a stable supply of industrial chemicals with no environmental impact and at lower cost. They are building better products that are clean, sustainable and have cost and quality advantages over their petrochemical counterparts.

—Jeffrey Klunzinger, managing partner at venture capital firm OS Fund


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