“At Anthology, we leverage nature’s tools that power biodiversity to optimize genomes of underexplored organisms, with the goal of scaling and digitizing biomanufacturing.”
Unleashing the Power of Synthetic Biology in Biomanufacturing
"I spent a large part of my childhood in the rural part of China, where I bonded deeply with nature and farm animals. Changing how we perceive and treat nature in the Anthropocene has always been my passion and purpose.
Although it arose around a similar time as the semiconductor industry, modern biomanufacturing is still limited in its utility, complexity, and scalability. My past 10 years of research has been focusing on making computational and genetic tools to program living cells like computers. However, biological systems are immensely complex; optimizing them to our benefit using rational engineering approaches that change one or a few genes at a time can be a slow process. An analogy is that it’s like playing the lottery with extremely low odds. At Anthology, instead of giving you ten lottery tickets, we create thousands to millions of them by generating diverse genomes using our versatile genetic tools. This dramatically increases the odds of landing on an optimized cell type for biomanufacturing. The unique genomic datasets created through this process can also bring us closer towards generating optimal genomes computationally. The applications span across decarbonizing the whole industry of making materials, food, enzymes, and therapeutics. We're first applying these genetic tools on filamentous fungi as their usage is already found across these industries. One day, we hope to achieve negative carbon emission for bioproduction using other organisms such as autotrophs and maybe even plants."
Blueprint and the Impact on Anthology's Journey
"Creating a company has always been on my mind. Last year as I neared the end of my PhD, I was very lucky to join the Technology Venture Fellowship program at The Engine, which helped me identify the market white space for synthetic biology in biomanufacturing and learn about venture building. Afterwards, I teamed up with my co-founders, Zijay Tang, a research fellow in George Church's lab at Harvard, and Charles Jo, a PhD candidate at Boston University, to brainstorm on ideas that can address the identified market gap. We've been drawing expertise from different knowledge fields, from genome engineering, lab evolution to computational biology, to build an integrated technology platform.
Earlier this year, we participated in the Blueprint program to take our technology to the market. Blueprint provided us with valuable insights and knowledge on setting up a company, including finding market opportunities, navigating the regulatory pathways, bringing products to market and securing venture funding. The small-group mentorship discussion was also very valuable; it enabled us to learn from other entrepreneurs’ experience thinking through these questions."
Overcoming Challenges and Shaping the Future
"Our next hurdle is integrating different parts of the technology platform and showcase that we are not just advancing the science, but also finding commercial value for the technology. As we progress on our path to commercialization, challenges arise, including thinking about milestones we have to deliver to set the company up for success, and achieving product-market fit. Fortunately, I gained a very valuable support system through getting involved in different programs at The Engine, and we’re ready to take on these challenges and mature into successful leaders.”