Novo Holdings invests €86m in new bioindustrial scale-up company 21st.BIO

By Jim Cornall

- Last updated on GMT

"A success for 21st.BIO is also a success for Novozymes."
"A success for 21st.BIO is also a success for Novozymes."

Related tags Novozymes

Novo Holdings, an international life sciences investor, has announced an investment in 21st.BIO A/S – a new Danish bio-industrial scale-up company.

Established in 2020, 21st.BIO was founded with the mission of supporting bioindustrial companies globally in upscaling from molecule innovation to large-scale production to be able to meet market demands and thereby advance the green transition globally. The focus areas of 21st.BIO include producing proteins and peptides that can be utilized for the food, materials and agricultural industries. It is estimated as much as 60% of the physical inputs to the global economy could be produced biologically.

Today, much of the transformational bioindustrial innovation is never commercialized because of the challenges when production has to be scaled from the lab processes to full-scale manufacturing. The production environment in which the molecule was originally developed is often unable to deliver the right quality and at acceptable cost levels.

A common issue facing innovators in industrial biotech is also a lack of access to competencies and facilities to develop a molecule production process that can deliver the desired quality at the cost levels required to compete effectively.

Thomas Schmidt, co-founder, and CEO of 21st.BIO, said, “Many brilliant industrial biotech ideas never succeed, because production challenges result in too high price points for the final product. Hence, a vast number of otherwise great innovations do not make it to a scale at which they are truly relevant for the world.

“At 21st.BIO, we can help establish the right technology for producing novel molecules and peptides and hence help innovators successfully make the difficult step from innovation to big business and impact for the planet. We have gained access to a selection of Novozymes’ unique technology platform on commercial terms, which means that a success for 21st.BIO is also a success for Novozymes.”

The technology platform of 21st.BIO originates from selected parts of the Novozymes platform, which has been developed over the past 40 years.

Novozymes provides a co-exclusive licence to 21st.BIO within certain boundaries of applications, ensuring Novozymes’ ability to continue its leadership position in the areas where Novozymes operates. 

Claus Crone Fuglsang, executive vice president of Novozymes, said, “A strong industrial biotech environment, supported by enabling start-ups to bring innovation to scale, will help build future markets. The entire industry will benefit from a thriving development of new biological solutions. This is an opportunity to leverage our technology in a different context and enable a transition to-wards a biobased society and create further value – also for Novozymes’ share-holders.”

Novo Holdings is investing €86m in 21st.BIO, and Søren Møller, managing partner of Novo Seeds, Novo Holdings, will join the board of directors.

“I am very pleased to join 21st.BIO on its mission to help more biological solutions reach the market and thereby enable the acceleration of the green transition. The technology that 21st..BIO offers addresses a critical, unmet global need, and I see great potential for synergies and partnerships between 21st.BIO and other Novo Holdings portfolio companies in the industrial biotech sector,”​ Møller said.

21st.BIO currently operates in Denmark and California. The access to selected parts of Novozymes’ R&D platform and the investment by Novo Holdings will enable the company to expand its capacity further.

“With the access to a selected part of Novozymes technology platform and financing from Novo Holdings, 21st.BIO will be able to grow and to establish the first manufacturing site to serve our customers globally. Further, with both Novo Holdings and Novozymes on board, we are getting access to a broader network and knowledge base that is very advantageous,”​ Schmidt said.

21st.BIO helps customers optimizing and developing the appropriate expression platform for large-scale production of their particular molecule by testing the molecule using various expression platforms, such as fungi, yeast or bacteria. When the right expression platform has been identified, 21st.BIO draws on its strain bank and selects and optimizes the best-performing strains. This leads to an optimized production platform so clients can create their product at commercially attractive costs and quantities.

To Novozymes, the opportunity base will materialise as 21st.BIO succeeds with its projects, and revenue will be generated from licensing income as technologies are commercialized.


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