The $4.7 trillion chemical industry accounts for about 4% of global GDP and 5% of carbon emissions. The industry is proving hard to decarbonize due to its use of carbon-intensive feedstock (e.g., petroleum) and high heat in production. Solugen, valued at over $2B, aims to deliver the green solution. At the SOSV Climate Tech Summit (Sept 26-27 / free & virtual), Solugen co-founder and CEO Dr. Gaurab Chakrabarti, MD, PhD sat down with Dr. John Cumbers of SynBioBeta, a synthetic biology innovation network, to discuss how bio startups can eliminate emissions.
Solugen is part of the multitrillion-dollar bioeconomy, which gained momentum in September 2022 after President Joe Biden issued an executive order “…to advance biotechnology and biomanufacturing towards innovative solutions in health, climate change, energy, food security, agriculture, supply chain resilience, and national and economic security.”
It’s a tall order from the White House but tailor-made for companies like Solugen. The team has developed a carbon-negative molecule factory called a “Bioforge” that uses proprietary engineered enzymes to produce chemicals (it’s “…not your grandpa’s chemical plant,” as Solugen puts it). Solugen claims that it can synthesize 90% of the world’s chemicals using nothing but sugar, water, catalysts, and air (and renewable electricity)—with zero emissions and no wastewater. It also claims that over 90% of these feedstocks are converted to product, meaning Solugen minimizes yield losses that make traditional thermochemical and fermentation processes so expensive.
Currently, Solugen’s product line includes chemicals for plant nutrition, water treatment, concrete production, cleaning agents, skincare products, and, somewhat unexpectedly, oil and gas extraction. To date, Solugen has raised over $640M in funding. Its backers include Kennivik, Lowercarbon Capital, Refactor Capital, BlackRock, GIC, Temasek, Baillie Gifford, Founders Fund, and Fifty Years.
How much scale will Solugen need to make a serious dent in emissions? Can they outcompete chemical manufacturers with bio-based substitutes? And how else might bioeconomy startups like Solugen help with decarbonization?
Catch the full session—and all others from this year’s Summit—here.
Dr. Gaurab Chakrabarti, MD, PhD
Dr. Gaurab Chakrabarti, MD, PhD is the co-founder and CEO of Solugen. As a physician-scientist, Gaurab took an oath to first do no harm—and for him, that goes beyond patients or medicine. So in 2016, he started Solugen to decarbonize the chemicals industry, one of the most damaging for people and the Earth. Gaurab believes in using biology in unconventional ways to solve incredibly complex problems and is building a world-class team to join him on the journey. Gaurab studied computational neuroscience as an undergraduate at Brown University and received his MD & PhD in cancer biology and enzymology at the University of Texas. He is an author or co-author on more than 20 peer-reviewed publications and patents, and he is a Forbes 30 Under 30 in Industry and Manufacturing.
Dr. John Cumbers
Dr. John Cumbers is the founder and CEO of SynBioBeta, the leading community of innovators, investors, engineers, and thinkers who share a passion for using synthetic biology to build a better, more sustainable universe. He publishes the weekly SynBioBeta Digest, hosts the SynBioBeta Podcast, and wrote “What’s Your Biostrategy?”, the first book to anticipate how synthetic biology is going to disrupt virtually every industry in the world. John also founded BetaSpace, a space settlement innovation network and community of visionaries, technologists, and investors accelerating the industries needed to sustain human life here and off-planet. John has been involved with multiple startups, he’s an operating partner and investor at the hard tech investment fund Data Collective, and he’s a former bioengineer at NASA. John earned his PhD in Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry from Brown University and is originally from the UK.