Accelerating Biotech at Startup Speed


IndieBio, a seed-stage biotech accelerator, believes we can reprogram life to solve “intractable problems.” It’s helping companies develop faster solutions to those problems with $200,000 in cash and $50,000 in resources, for which the accelerator gets 8 percent equity. Recently the company held its second Demo Day. Fourteen companies got the chance to show off the work they’ve done over the last four months and convince potential investors of their product and business’ viability. It was packed: more people than chairs, overloaded Wi-Fi, pretty much what you’d expect at a time when biotech funding hit an all-time high.

Alex Lorestani, CEO and cofounder of Gelzen, likened evolution to “a million monkeys typing tech.” His company engineers cells intended to disrupt the gummy bear industry with its version of gelatin, which is a $2 billion market. Gelzen competes with traditional gelatin on cost, but its product doesn’t require growing an animal. Gelzen was one of three companies focused on the post-animal economy at Demo Day. Memphis Meats was another. The first domestication of animals for food happened 12,000 years ago. It changed civilization. Memphis Meats believes cultivating meat from beef and pork cells and growing them in a lab is the “second domestication.” No more antibiotics or animal slaughter. The company gave out “meatballs,” which apparently taste like meatballs.

The solutions on display during the Demo Day, including systems to deliver gene-edited therapies that fight cancer, were powerful not just because they seem so advanced, but because they seem so advanced after only four months and a mere $250,000 in resources. At the end of Demo Day, it was hard not feeling as if, with the speed at which tech is changing what’s possible, the solutions to some of our intractable problems are getting closer.

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