Pluton Biosciences raises $6.6 million in initial funding to look to nature for cutting-edge biotech solutions
Many of the issues we confront now in biology and agriculture have been encountered previously, but never by humans. There’s a minuscule organism somewhere in nature that does what chemists and bioengineers can’t — and Pluton Biosciences claims to have figured out how to discover it and others like it. They’ve already shown insect repellent and carbon sequestration techniques, with more on the way.
Bacteria and other microbes completely unknown to science may be found all over the world, inside and outside of plants and animals, and entrenched in the soil. However, the few that humans have learned to cultivate and manage, like as lactobacilli and E.coli, have had a transformational effect, permitting all sorts of novel meals, discoveries, and industrial operations. But, as valuable as they are, they are merely a small part of a vast array.
“There are a trillion kinds of microorganisms, but we only utilise a few,” said Pluton founder and CTO Barry Goldman, who spent almost two decades at Monsanto researching similar concepts. “We’re attempting to tackle major problems by tapping into that vast pool of biodiversity out there.”
Of course, Goldman isn’t the first to try to unlock the planet’s latent intellectual property assets, and Pluton’s strategy is rather antiquated. Simply said, you take a handful of soil or another microbe-rich media and test it to see if it does anything interesting.
If it seems a little hazy, it is — but when done consistently, it may be a significant source of fresh content. The issue, as Goldman said, was that “they could never get it down to a single organism and sequence it” back when people were (literally) digging the soil for the next penicillin. They knew there was a creature creating an antidote somewhere in this cubic centimetre of dirt.
“The key technology is generating tiny populations of organisms that no one understands how to grow individually but can nonetheless be tested,” CEO Steve Slater explained. “It enables us to access and cultivate the 99.999 percent of microorganisms that are currently not culturable, as well as sequence them.”
Although Goldman and Slater were naturally hesitant to discuss the platform’s intricacies, their early achievements attest to the approach’s usefulness, and a $6.6 million seed round sho
“Knowing how to select or screen for whatever phenotype [i.e. measurable characteristics of an organism] you care about, whether it’s sequestering carbon or killing insects or fungi, then rapidly getting down to the set of organisms or genes that are performing that particular function,” Slater explained. They are able to execute this isolation procedure and have the sequencing done on organisms of interest thanks to a unique method.
They said that they chose to look for a natural pesticide that operates on mosquitoes, which are, of course, a major issue in many areas, to establish the viability of their “Micromining engine.” “We wondered, can we uncover unique, uncharacterized microorganisms that have the capacity to kill mosquitoes?” Slater explained. Yes, and it was actually rather simple – we completed it in a matter of months, and they came from Barry’s garden.”
If it seems incredible that such a finding could have been made right beneath the founder’s nose, you may be underestimating the breadth of microbe biodiversity. It’s one of those “surprising science facts” that we don’t think about often, yet it’s important.
Its seems incredible that such amazing discovery was lying just beneath the nose of the founder,no one would have thought of it. Pluton Biosciences has made a good remark in the history of biotechnology. All my best wishes to them.Shishir Gupta, Founder and CEO, StartupLanes
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