We hope our iGEM project as application-oriented biosynthesis can serve the public., so we conducted an analysis of our "aSTARice" in the perspective of entrepreneurship.
After our survey and analysis, we find that the market requirement of astaxanthin is quite large. At present, astaxanthin is widely used in cosmetics and health products. Compared with collagen which is actually hard to be absorbed into human skin, astaxanthin is much better because of its easy intake and its strong effect on antioxidation as well as anti-aging. Therefore, most top cosmetics and health products are added with astaxanthin and their product forms include mask, capsule, oral liquid and so on. What's more, there is much effect on anti-cancer, preventing cancer and enhancing immunity in these products. So these kinds of products should be full of development potential in the pharmaceutical industry. With time going by, the method of harvesting astaxanthin has not been much improved. The main method of astaxanthin production is to extract from some kinds of algaes or yeasts. Because of this, the output of astaxanthin is quite low, leading to a high price in astaxanthin.
Our products consist of purified astaxanthin powder and some kinds of preliminarily-processed products (e.g. astaxanthin mask). For a better understanding of the public's thoughts, we design some particular questions concerning astaxanthin in our questionnaire about genetic modification(gm) as part of market survey. This survey on the status quo of genetically-modified food makes us think more about iGEM from our life in some degree.
After a long time of study, we already have a certain amount of awareness of social supports and legal contracts which are relevant with student entrepreneurship. During this time, we know about it that the supports from Chinese universities for those undergraduate students to carry out different kinds of entrepreneurial activities, especially those student groups with scientific or technological patent. Apart from financial support, school will also provide those groups with some opportunities to have a face-to-face talk with venture capitalists.
Our general industry idea concentrates on agriculture, health care and cosmetic industry, of course, the latter is our main objective.
In recent years, China has become the area with the fastest rate of growth in retailing health care products around the world. At present, the annual value of health care products is nearly 560 billion yuan and that of cosmetics keeps more than 7% annual growth. Especially, among all kinds of cosmetics, skin care products accounts for half of the overall cosmetic market. So, the cosmetic industry has been regarded as the most profitable industry in the year of 2016 in China and, especially, there will be a broad prospect in high-end cosmetics industry. Although astaxanthin is not so famous as hyaluronic acid in cosmetic industry, actually, its medicinal value and market value is higher than those of hyaluronic acid and collagen. There will be lots of powerful effects on antioxidant and anti-aging with the addition of astaxanthin. Nowadays, people all desire health and thus, the demand of astaxanthin will tend to rise. However, current production way is to extract astaxanthin from Haematococcus pluvialis or some kinds of yeast. There are only 7 normative manufacturers of astaxanthin, which cause the phenomenon that the demand for astaxanthin exceeds the supply and the costs of astaxanthin is quite high. So, if our project can be put into mass production of astaxanthin by extracting from plants (for example, rice), we will take a great advantage in the market.
Because our products come from rice, the project itself is greatly related to agriculture. Thus, we take part in The Sixth Asian Conference on Precision Agriculture held in SCAU this year so that we can make a understanding towards the situation of modern agriculture development in Asia.
Aiming at learning about the social contract concerning the genetically modified product, we took part in the lecture made by the key lab of China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment (CFSA) about food safety, lecturing by researcher Wu Yongning.
End of 2015, our team members join in the large scale genetically modified science and technology lecture as well, lecturing by Kou Jianping, who is the commissioner of China agriculture science ministry and technology education department genetically modified organisms safety management and intellectual property rights, and Lin Min, who is the director of China academy of agricultural sciences biotechnology research institute.
In the meeting, we learned that the the launch of genetically mofied product should pass many examines in order to confirm not doing harm to human beings, and finally it is allowed to enter the market. Up till now, China has only permitted and issued 7 series of security certificate, namely, shelf-stable tomatoes, cotton, change color petunias, disease-resistant chili, disease-resistant papaya, insect-resistant phytase maize and rice. Therefore, if our product wants to be launched, it also needs many examines and struggles for the permission of relevant state departments.
We enjoyed the communication with the genetically modified experts as well, learning about a series advanced methods of reducing the risk of gene pollution during the period of the research of genetically modified technology. So, these can be the key point about how to slove with the gene pulltionand and avoid biological risk better in our project.
Expect the regulations about genetically modified technology, we should make more effort to master the issue of intellectual property right for entrepreneur like us. Therefore, we join in the lecture given by professor Zhang Yongzhong, who is from South China Normal university school of law college.
In this lecture, we can know that if one of our research result is only published papers, we just can own the copyright, but enterprise can use this achievement for free. So, at the same time of setting up enterprises and publishing papers, we need to apply for a patent to protect our intellectual property right.
Our school sets up some funding projects which can be applied for by students. After summiting the application for projects applying, there will be a selection among those applications. Once the application is passed, the relevant project will be sent to a specific department in order to make a uniform management.
Hackerspace exhibition: our project was displayed by college of life sciences as a innovation model student subject among the school in the "Hackerspace" (incubator for innovation and entrepreneurship). Hackerspace is also called "Maker Zone" or "Fab Labs", has sprung up all over the world. It is part of a thriving passenger movement, encouraging people to innovation.
"Maker" is the person who is trying to turn the interest, hobbies and ideas into reality. Under the background of the Internet, if makers once have new destination, they can use the open source hardware and Internet to make more creative ideas become products.
Hackerspace in our school also has the people in charge, which means they will irregularly invite some successful commercial, fund investors to visit the space and communicate with the guests.
If the project is worthy to be recommended, it will gain amount of commercial investment.
In the student innovative of all the college exhibition, together with other business products from our school participating in the exhibition of the university student innovation of business incubators entrepreneurial achievement, we are the only team who promote our project about the synthetic biology. Our school's innovative business incubators have been used to help the scientific research team sturning the laboratory achievements into the enterprise projects.
Biochemical skills competition:
We tested our project in Guangdong Biochemical Skills Competition in advance. Our team extracted astaxanthin and tested its oxidation in this large scale competition. After extracting from the shrimp shell and gainning the highly purified astaxanthin, carotenoids, lycopene and other material, we compared these materail and found that the antioxidant level of astaxanthin is the highest.
In the competition, we basically identify that astaxanthin is easy to extract and have strong antioxidation material, which can be used in skin care production and has a certain huge advantage.
Our aim is to improve people's life with the help of science. We will stick to comply with the law on the prevention and control of biological industry rules, and respect for the law of intellectual property rights.
The aSTARice project has not entered the market yet. If the company was founded finally, our project will belong to instructor who provides us with all the money and the iGEMteam members who take part in the experiment.
In the current status, professor Zhu Qinglong has most of shares, other people who participate in this project have remainder shares.
Astaxanthin can be used in health food (for example, capsule, oral liquid, medical tea) and the selling prices vary with the astaxanthin contents in the products: the product (with an astaxanthin content of 5%) sells for 374.6 US dollar in the market, and the product(with an astaxanthin content of 1%~2%) sells for 149.9 US dollar.
Why the price of astaxanthin is inaccessible? What will the price be if astaxanthin selling in the market is extracted from rice?
The total cost of the production is made up of the following six parts:
1. The cost of the raw material
Most astaxanthin sold in the market nowadays are extracted from Haematococcus pluvialis. However, extraction from Haematococcus pluvialis requires a high level of industrial technology and the autotrophic stage of Haematococcus pluvialis last for a long period of time, resulting in high cost of the astaxanthin. For example, astaxanthin produced by Snobel requires high cost (probably take up 30% of the total cost). But, the extraction of astaxanthin from rice requires lower cost of the raw material, because rice is easiler to grow and extract, in other words, astaxanthin can be extracted from rice without expensive and advanced technology.
1.1 Extract astaxanthin from shrimp
The alkaline extract:
The alkaline extract is provided for recovering astaxanthin, astaxanthin carotenoids, astaxanthin esters, chitin and proteins from crustacean tissues containing such. But in the process of the alkaline extract, a large amount of reagents like alkaline and acid are used and the waste water produced during the extraction can do great harm to the environment. What's more, it is not astaxanthin but astacene or the degradation product of astaxanthin which is produced from extraction, because astaxanthin is not stable in the present of alkaline during the high-temperature processing.
Extraction with oil:
The oil extraction is an effective method to extract astaxanthin and chitin were extracted at a yield of about 86%, and carotenoids were extracted in cod liver oil at a yield of up to 74% (There are 17.0% to 32.2% of chitin and from 3.4 to 14.7 mg/100 g of carotenoid pigments, mostly astaxanthin and its esters, within the byproducts from shrimp and different parts of crab contained.). The oil extraction is no doubt a safe and effective method to produce astaxanthin while extracts are not easy to be separated from high boiling oils. As a result, both the concentration and purity of astaxanthin are not high and this production can not be applied in most fields only if further separation and purification(for example, a molecular distillation treatment) are taken, which will rasie cost greatly.
Supercritical CO2/ethanol extraction:
Astaxanthin from demineralized crab (Callinectes sapidusj) shell waste was extracted with a mixture of supercritical C2 and ethanol as a cosolvent. Supercritical CO2/ethanol extraction is an effective way to produce high-quality astaxanthin and astaxanthin is not easy to degrade. However, extraction with this technology require a large amount of raw materials and few astaxanthin is produced, resulting in high cost in commercial process.
1.2 Chemical synthesis of astaxanthin
Canthaxanthin can be used as the raw material to produce astaxanthin and in this method, astaxanthin can be synthesized with few steps. However, canthaxanthin is expensive and only 55%～65% astaxanthin can be harvested during the two-step reactions, making this menthod discordant with the large-scale production.
In another chemical synthesis method, 6-oxo-isophorone(C9) is used as the raw material. C9 and the six-carbon alcohol(C6) change into C15- triphenyl phosphonium salt after several steps of reactions,which can react with 2,7-2,4,6-dimethyl octyl leukotriene-1,8-MDA(C10) and turn into astaxanthin in the presence of alkaline. Even though its long procedure and complicated technics, this method is the only way which is applied in commercial process.
1.3 Extract from Haematococcus pluvialis
The unicellular green alga Haematococcus pluvialis have a capacity to amass ketocarotenoid astaxanthin. The content of astaxanthin in high-quality Haematococcus pluvialis is as high as 90%( of their weights). However, autotrophic stage of Haematococcus pluvialis last for a long period of time and this method require a high level of industrial technology. What's more, the complicated manufacturing technique make large-scale production difficult.
2. The labour cost
Most of the companies which sell astaxanthin extracted from Haematococcus pluvialis are in European and American areas because the productions of astaxanthin require high level of industrial technology. The labour cost in these areas are high (probably take up 15% of the total cost). When we extract astaxanthin from rice, we can set up factories in developing countries (no demanding technology is required during the production of astaxanthin), which greatly reduce the labour cost.
3. The packing cost
The packing cost probably takes up 10% of the total cost.
4. The cost of marketing
This part of cost probably takes up 30% of the total cost.
5. Other costs
Other costs mean the costs generate during storage, transport and the cost of loss unexpectedly (for example, the losses due to the humid weather). These costs take up probably 15% of the total cost of the good. But the astaxanthin extracted from rice may have a lower cost because they show a better quality when the products are transported or stored.
When the product are imported from other countries, tariff should be paid and it will take up probably 15% of the total cost of the product. And little differences are shown between the astaxanthin producted by different methods.
Though the comparison of the costs for astaxanthin productions, we can found that rice can be a great kind of material to produce astaxanthin, because it can lower the price of astaxanthin greatly and make astaxanthin more accessible to the public.
In the operating process of our company, it's significant for us to master the potential customers' psychology and behavior. At present, lots of cosmetics buyers could not understand the effect of cosmetic ingredients, most of the time just according to the cosmetics brand advertising and the price to choose whether they buy or not.
What's more, we found out our previous survey, pulic have an poor understanding of astaxanthin.
Question13: Have you ever heard of skin care product that contains astaxanthin?
Question 14: Will you choose a skin care product or health foodstuff that contains astaxanthin (gm)?
If new genetically modified foods on the market, about half of people can fully accept. Especially for the consumption of gm products (non-food), the public for its acceptance will be higher. Public do not know much about our astaxanthin product at present, so we should enlarge the propaganda. Our astaxanthin product will have a larger market if it made to be a skin care product.
Because the pulic have a poor understanding on astaxanthin, so a lot of cosmetics production enterprises is unnecessary to use astaxanthin which has the fantastic effect, but add the collagen protein which has no effct actually.
So, before we promote our products, we must make the public know about their misunderstandings of cosmetic and make them really know the effect of astaxanthin by using scientific data, and, finally, make the public believe astaxanthin truly has antioxidant and health care function. As a result, cosmetics manufacturers are willing to buy astaxanthin as raw materials.
In our research, we also found that the public have very big concern about genetically modified products. Influenced by social rumors, especially in recent years, part of netizens who lack of professional knowledge hype gm products up with misunderstandings. So, the public irrational fear of genetically modified technology has been extended to the genetically modified products of national approval. Therefore, we must stress out that we have used Markfree to dispose the resistance genes, and make an effort the transparency of genetically modified technology, putting more efforts into popular science advertisement of genetically modified technology.
Our main competitors are those previous producers of axtaxanthin. However, compared with them, the new technology we have will bring us oceans of financial support from society or government. At the same time, with the optimization of our technology, our production cost will reduce and we will finally obtain competitive superiority in the competition against those axtaxanthin producers which depend on natural materials.
Our enterprise will be regarded the technical personnel as basis and core, divided into four sections: marketing, internal management department, finance department as well as research and development department (R&D). Marketing department is responsible for the publicity, expanding market, including customer manager and sales consultant, etc. Internal management department is responsible for the instrument, the daily operation of the hr management, etc. The financial department, led by chief financial officer ,is responsible for providing the financial statements, tracking the assets of company's financial status, monitoring the crisis,atracting the external financing. R&D department serve as the core,led by the chief scientist directly, followed by project manager, research engineers at all levels and other laboratory technician, etc., directly linked with the company's overall strategy. Research and development department, market department and internal management department should set up the financial commissioner, docking with the finance department, timely reflect budgets, usage, and submit the related material for auditting. After the analysis of Financial department, they will feedback the R&D department financial usage to the CEO. CEO will determine the whether need to hold a meeting discussing with other core management team members concerning taking strategy. Eventually ,chief financial officer decided the company's financial plan.
Economy of the Business
Due to the genetically modified (gm) crops is unpopular, our astaxanthin is likely to extract product to sales alone, which requires the industrial model to analyze the economic plan. According to the idealized model of economics and business decision-making simulation (Based on Management and Economics Simulation Exercise, designed by Harvard), enterprise's basic spending depends on the market (Marketing), the equipment Investment spending (Investment), research and development (R&D), these three major categories, these three spending also react on the product cost, sales. Earlier market has a big investment, so it can increase the sales quickly, reducing the cost, having the advantage in sales.But in the future, because of the problems about unfinished orders, unit profit decline and the product quality is not high.The increasing investment in research and development, may raising costs, reducing sales, and the latter will power up.
But luckly, under the existed scientific research fund's support, we have completed the most part of the research and development, having unique advantages in technology.Through the financing, we can invest a great amout of money into the market and equipments. If we obtain 500,000 yuan at the first round of financing, we shall use 250,000 yuan for equipment investment, 250,000 yuan for the market, paying attention constantly on depreciation after, and ensure that the investment has been higher than depreciation. To control the amount of depreciation, production should be 80% of capacity (80% Capacity Utilization).
Improving equipment can improve productivity, reduce costs and market investment can promote sales. At the beginning, our price should be 1.5 times as much as the mass of production cost per unit, and then running down gradually with the decline of the cost per unit. The specific speed of decline according to the market situation, trying not to decline so fast, to avoid price rebound. What's more, we need to pay attention to the early pice, ensuring that it will not be too low and remaining the space of reduction. After two years, we are better to proceed early profit into the R&D investment, maintainning competitive.
In addition, for the modern enterprise, it's vital for us to master ourself and design strategies, according to financial and market reports to calculate. Cost calculation should put the quarter investment into consideration, the greater the output, the lower the unit cost. And the computation involved in some critical constant,which need professional students calculate the equation according to the specific industry situation, and mastery of these constants will be our financial core, ensuring that we can master better the price range. Before investment, we should ensure the available fund, inculding cash and the loans limit which is depending on the reality , and out of the existed loans, to avoid financial risk in the investment. Our principle is no matter how we don't exceed loans limit. For financing, we can strive for loans and venture capital. Due to the the work of early stage is not much, after we appy for a patent in the form of options to exchange of shareholders investment. It will be hundreds of thousands of yuan stock options in a few years later.
Appendix: Company cost of recycling basic budget table
Note: This budget sheet is calculated by astaxanthin 1,000 RMB (yuan)/g (the actual prices may be with a slight increase or decrease floating)
It's generally expected that we can recycle costs in the third year. During the production, we can devote to research and development, continuing to improve astaxanthin yield per kilogram of rice and to increase the profit.
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