Fish is an essential component of diets across the world and can provide essential nutrients for healthy diet. As the need for stable food supply emerges with the rise of global population, aquaculture is becoming one of the fastest growing industries in the world. Currently, however, substantial number of fish stocks are lost due to infections. Microsynbiotix aims to solve this issue by engineering algae to produce vaccines and therapeutics against bacterial infection of the fish.
What is the Microsynbiotix’s product/ technology?
Microsynbiotix offers transgenic algae that contain vaccines – fish eat the algae in the aquafarm and get immunized against bacterial or viral infections. Currently, most of the available vaccines are not effective and are costly to manufacture. In fact, aquaculture industry loses approximately 5% of the global fish stocks, worth about 10 billion USD in each year due to viral and bacterial diseases. Microsynbiotix’s algae can transform the aquaculture disease management by producing vaccines and therapeutics that are efficacious, affordable, and sustainable.
“Synthetic biology has a huge potential to change the world in every aspect of human life.” the company says, as it utilizes synthetic biology tools to introduce plug-and-play genetic constructs into the algae for varieties of vaccine productions. Microsynbiotix combines recent advances in algal chloroplast genomics with molecular biology tools such as gene synthesis to build synthetic DNA constructs that are introduced into algae. These oral vaccines provide high-value, low-volume products that could potentially be used to produce vaccines and therapeutics for humans.
How did Microsynbiotix get started and what is the current progress?
Microsynbiotix is created by a team of scientists – Simon, Antonio, and Sebastian – who are passionate about solving real-life problems in creative ways. As the scientists with extensive experience and passion in synthetic biology come together, Microsynbiotix is their first initiative to make a change in society.
Recently, the team was selected to join IndieBio EU, the European version of the world’s first synthetic biology accelerator. Although it can be challenging to raise seed funding as an early-stage biotechnology company, IndieBio EU has provided the company with space, mentorship, and seed capital. “IndieBio creates an entrepreneurial environment that is conducive to innovation and creativity.” says the founders who find the business mentorship especially helpful in accelerating their product commercialization. For instance, the program’s miniMBA series gave them an exposure to marketing and business operations.
The founders advise aspiring entrepreneurs that creating startups can involve a lot of uncertainty, so one must be effective at managing his or her fears, and good at taking initiative and preparing yourself to be a leader. With such determination, Microsynbiotix brings together the passion and technology to revolutionize the aquaculture industry. By introducing a novel transgenic algal oral vaccine utilizing synthetic biology tools, their microalgae might be able to completely replace the traditional antibiotic-dependent disease management for sustainable and economical fish farming.
This post was guest contributed by Tetsuhiro Harimoto who is currently a graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Tal Danino in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University.