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Accelerating SynBio into Industry: IndieBio

By Aakriti Jain

PLOS Synthetic Biology Community Editor

For a synthetic biologist, taking an innovative and potentially world-changing idea to the next step may be a difficult prospect. You could consider applying to incubators, such as the QB3 Incubator in order to get the space you need to fine-tune your research, expand your operations, and be part of a network of researchers and entrepreneurs. While such incubator spaces provide fantastic networks and spaces, what they lack is support: scientific, as well as business and operations.

Indiebio logo

IndieBio, the world’s first synthetic biology accelerator, is an attempt to fill this niche in the biotech world. IndieBio (short for independent biology) offers seed funding, space, and scientific and business mentorship for anyone, anywhere. Much like other start-up accelerators, such as YCombinator, IndieBio hosts companies for 100 days of acceleration, where residents can attend a host of classes, network with the other companies and the IndieBio mentors, and prepare their projects for a demo day. The demo day is where start-ups have the opportunity to present their company to a larger network of impact, angel and venture investors. Along with the 100 days and demo day, IndieBio also offers companies a full year in the space to improve and functionalize their start-ups. Their investment model is simple: a package of $100k, with $50k in cash seed-funding for only 8% equity in the funded start-up.

IndieBio is different from other accelerators due to its focused approach on a biotechnology portfolio, an industry that requires a great amount of background knowledge and training. The IndieBio mentors represent a broad spectrum of expertise, from patent and IP specialists such as John Storella, to synthetic biologists such as Drew Endy and George Church.

What makes IndieBio really unique is that it combines venture funding with acceleration. This is because it is a subsidiary of the international VC group SOSVentures, a $250 million firm whose portfolio covers a wide range of company profiles, including SynBiota.  Starting with its first class in Cork, Ireland (with a fully-equipped bio-safety level 2 lab at University College Cork), IndieBio has expanded westward into a beautiful space in downtown San Francisco’s SOMA district.

IndieBio’s temporary space in the Dogpatch near UCSF Mission Bay. One of the only small setbacks the SF branch of IndieBio encountered was changing spaces while waiting for the city of San Francisco to give them the necessary permits to build a lab in their original SOMA district location.
IndieBio’s temporary space in the Dogpatch near UCSF Mission Bay. One of the only small setbacks the SF branch of IndieBio encountered was changing spaces while waiting for the city of San Francisco to give them the necessary permits to build a lab in their original SOMA district location.

IndieBio is scheduled to run in three batches per year, with the first starting in San Francisco in mid-January, then in Cork, Ireland in early May and again in San Francisco in early September.

IndieBio’s portfolio is filled with the industry’s most promising start-ups taking on difficult and high-risk challenges, such as Orphidia, which is creating a $10 real time blood diagnostics “lab on a chip” to test for up to 50 diseases, to Arcturus Biocloud, a cloud-based science platform for biomakers. For a full list of the IndieBio SF first class, click here.

According to Ron Shigeta, IndieBio SF’s Chief Scientific Officer, their first batch of start-ups has shown great promise. In fact, since their initial announcement of the 11 companies, they have been able to add one more to the portfolio: Zymochem, a company working on producing large amounts of industrial chemicals via fermentation processes. They have not had any major setbacks, and are excited for the future of IndieBio.

For more information on application processes, and more, definitely drop by http://indie.bio, and follow them at @indbio!

 

Corrections: IndieBio actually provides $50k in seed funding, not 35k as previously mentioned. Also, this summer’s Irish program will also give the option of providing an additional $20k loan midway to well performing teams. (Thanks to Cathal Garvey, the Irish IndieBio’s Scientific Director for pointing this out to me! 🙂 )

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