HOUSTON, March 13, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — On March 1st, 2023, First Bight Ventures and TMC (Texas Medical Center) Innovation collaborated on the 2023 Houston Tech Rodeo session “Exploring the Bioeconomy,” which focused on the confluence of sectors in the Houston economy that will be impacted by new applications of biotechnology and specifically, biomanufacturing for startups. Moderated by First Bight Ventures Founder Veronica Wu, the panelists included: Adrienne Davenport, PhD, Managing Director, BASF Industrial Enzyme; Andrew Chang, Managing Director, United Airlines Ventures; David Weiner, PhD, VP of Technology, Solugen; Deepak Dugar, PhD, Founder/CEO, Visolis; and Tara Karimi, PhD, Co-Founder and CTO, Cemvita.
The panelists highlighted several key challenges that face industrial biology, including harsher conditions, scaling, and increased complexities related to supply chains and feedstock.
The experts also weighed in on startup failures and ways that more mature companies can help. “I am passionate about helping startups go through the different technological readiness stages so they can achieve greater success,” explained Davenport. “At BASF, we want to work directly with startups to offer research services, consulting, and access to venture capital.” Davenport revealed the lack of understanding related to boundary conditions and the lack of collaboration between startups and experts who have scaling experience.
The panelists expressed their views on areas of support that are critical to startups. “At Solugen, we struggled with scaling. We had to create a manufacturing plant, but it was a huge risk. We were able to achieve this partly because we are based in Houston and we have a great team of engineers,” said Weiner. “Scaling synthetic biology is not easy, but there are tremendous opportunities for startups to work together on this common goal and push the bioeconomy forward,” he added.
Houston-based growth and innovation were also discussed. “Houston offers diversity of thought and industry. Aerospace, energy, and biology are all highly relevant for producing sustainable energy as an airline,” said Chang. “I am actively growing my team in Houston.” Weiner mentioned that it would have been hard for him to imagine having Solugen be based anywhere else, given the breadth of talent, infrastructure, and innovation.
During the event, First Bight announced The BioWell, an initiative to build an ecosystem along with lab and pilot facilities supported by a public-private partnership model. “The BioWell will help startups to bridge ‘The Valley of Death’ via industry leadership and coordinated support from academic institutions, entrepreneurial communities, and foundations/private capital,” explained Anthony Breckenridge, Chief Business Officer. The BioWell will help accelerate industrial biomanufacturing and address three gaps as outlined in the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Tech: (1) Insufficient manufacturing capacity; (2) Regulatory uncertainty; and (3) Antiquated national strategy. Breckenridge also mentioned The BioWell is actively recruiting corporations to join the board and/or be sponsors.
More about First Bight can be found on the company’s website at firstbight.com.
To view a video of the panel, click here.
SOURCE First Bight Ventures