As a team, we believe that huge leaps in synthetic biology in the coming years will be driven by several entrepreneurial initiatives. This year we have worked to commercialise two aspects of our project:
After talking to 69 iGEM teams, 7 synthetic biology start-ups and the UK’s leading synthetic biology labs, we co-founded Alphabrick (please read about it here) to meet the challenges faced by the pioneers and tinkerers driving the synthetic biology field. Alphabrick is a synthetic biology software platform, interfacing automated cloud labs, for the design, exchange and creation of synthetic gene constructs, increasing accessibility and productivity. Hacked together in 72 hours at the UK’s biggest synthetic biology hackathon, Alphabrick’s minimum viable product was presented to investors, VCs, start-up founders and academics at the 2016 Technology Ventures Conference before being selected as the winners of the biohackathon and the recipients of £1500. Our product is evolving and continues to be shaped by on-going customer interviews. Our interviews have helped us to clarify the pain that we are addressing and the value proposition that our software tool offers for each of our customer segments. Alphabrick has been fast-tracked to Cambridge University’s Judge Business School’s prestigious accelerator programme through which we are currently progressing to bring our product to market by 2017.
We have also created a comprehensive first iteration of a business plan for the production of xylitol (please read about it here), a key ingredient in tooth-decay defying sweets. Through our engagement with our local elderly community we identified a demand for tea-time treats that did not cause tooth-decay or imbalances in sugar levels. Adopting a lean method, we have engaged extensively with the confectionary industry. Exploring London’s sugar-substituted sweets landscape, we confirmed this as a wider demand. Our extensive literature search drew our attention to xylitol, a sugar substitute with widely-reported health benefits but environmentally unfavourable and expensive production process. Speaking to the UK’s confectionary manufacturers, we confirmed demand for xylitol produced in a less expensive and more environmentally friendly way. We have therefore identified where in the value chain we are best placed to solve this problem and have devised a plan for the production of xylitol, using synthetic biology and biochemical engineering processes, that reduces the impact on the environment and decreases associated costs. We have filed a provisional patent for our production process and trademarked Xweet, our xylitol product. We have prototyped xylitol-containing confectionary and have set out a pathway for commercial success.