A new gas fermentation approach allows engineered microorganisms to feed on greenhouse gases and produce valuable products that can be used for multiple purposes

BOSTON, Mass., May 15, 2024 (Globe Newswire) — Harvard University's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering today announced that Circe, a startup company developed at the Institute and spun out of Harvard University, will announced that they have entered into an exclusive worldwide licensing agreement. Harvard University's Office of Technology Development (OTD) aims to commercialize new biological production technologies that can significantly reduce carbon emissions in industries ranging from food to aviation fuel.

Circe has raised more than $8 million to date from investors including Regen Ventures, Undeterred Capital, Ponderosa Ventures, Bee Partners, and Elementum Ventures.

“One of the great challenges facing humanity is how to sustain global growth and production while decarbonizing everything at the same time. We are addressing this critical issue by manufacturing ,” said Dr. Shannon Nangle, who co-founded Circe with fellow Wyss member Dr. Marika Ziesack. D.

Developed in the lab of Wyss Core faculty member Dr. Pamela Silver, Circe's technology grows microorganisms in gases such as carbon dioxide and harvests the molecules they build, much like plants grow. . Nangle and Ziesak are using synthetic biology to fine-tune the metabolism of specific microorganisms that naturally “eat” greenhouse gases, allowing those microbes to use those gases to make them valuable to many industries. We have made it possible to manufacture molecules. Their platform produces the same molecules that make up sugar, fat, biodegradable plastics, and biofuels, all using only CO.2water, and electricity as inputs.

“To ensure the planet is habitable for future generations of humans, we urgently need to decarbonize our industries and reverse the damage we have done to our planet. It's a great living machine that can be harnessed to produce what everyone needs to live a happy and comfortable life while reducing their consumption,” said Mr. Silver of Elliott T. Oney H. Adams is Professor of Biochemistry and Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School (HMS).

The first product Circe is developing is a triglyceride. Triglycerides are the molecules that make up the fats, butters, and oils we eat and use every day. The research team used triglycerides to produce the world's first gas-fermented chocolate. This could be a solution to disruptions to the global food supply chain, given the global shortage of cocoa during the 2023-2024 growing season. Additionally, this proof of concept will enable food production in any region and reduce the industry's carbon footprint.

Kirke's team is researching other types of fats, such as milk fat, which can add creaminess to both dairy and non-dairy products, and palm oil, which can be used across the food and cosmetics industries and as a sustainable fuel. We are also researching.

Circe's fermentation platform was created at Wyss Institute through the Wyss Institute validation pipeline, significantly reducing risk. This provides aspiring entrepreneurs with the resources and support they need to move their teams and technology from the lab to the real world. Based on the potential for significant positive impact, this was named a laboratory project in 2021 and received additional funding from Wyss to accelerate commercialization.

During the development of Circe, the team won several awards for its innovative concept. While at Wyss, they secured his $3.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy's ARPA-E ECOSynBio program, and Nangle and Ziesack were named his 2021 Activate Fellows. After the company was spun out from Harvard University, Nangle was named an “Innovator Under 35” by her MIT Tech Review.

“For centuries, humans' relationship with nature has been dominated by extraction, destruction, and consumption. A paradigm shift is beginning to occur, but it is happening far too slowly. The Circe team's technology will accelerate the transition to a future where we work with nature to produce what we need, rather than exploiting it. It has great potential,” said Don Ingber, MD, founding director of the Wyss Institute. Ingvar also Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology HMS and Boston Children's Hospital; Hansjörg Wyss Professor of Bioinspired Engineering at Harvard University's John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).

CONTACT: Lindsay Brownell Wyss Institute at Harvard University lindsay.brownell@wyss.harvard.edu

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