The Dutch agricultural biotech company Hudson River Biotechnology (HRB), a StartLife alumnus, has raised 5 million euro in Series A funding. The company focuses on CRISPR-based genome editing in plants. The raised investment – which consists 50% of non-dilutive funding- will be used to further develop HBR’s nanotech offering and explore market opportunities, as well as scaling up its core crop-breeding business.
Hudson River Biotechnology was launched in 2015 by two founders who meet each other at the Hudson River in New York City, hence the company name. In 2017 they decided to work specifically on the application of CRISPR in plant breeding, which lead to a seed round in 2018. Since then, they have been successful in addressing the two main bottlenecks in applying CRISPR to plants: knowing where to make edits, delivering the CRISPR ‘machinery’ inside the plant, and plant regeneration – getting it from the lab in an in vitro situation back to a real plant that can go in a field or greenhouse,” as co-founder and chief scientific officer Ferdinand Los mentioned in an interview with Agfundernews about the founding round.
Highly scalable nanotechnology
It’s that “delivery” element which has led HRB into exploring its latest new business case. The company has been working on nanoparticles that allow it to bypass plant cell walls in order to introduce CRISPR enzymes – but now it’s eyeing potential alternative uses for this teeny-tiny technology. Though nanotechnology is very expensive, HBR has found a way to make it highly scalable.
“The uniqueness is in the delivery, and there are two directions we can take this in. One is that we can encapsulate existing compounds or molecules to improve bioavailability and reduce the amounts [of agrochemicals] you need to spray on fields. The other is that we enable the delivery of new types [of inputs] – for example, biological agents”, says co-founder Ferdinand Los.
HBR takes a non-transgenic approach to CRISPR. They do not add any DNA from other species into the plants it is working on. This allows the company to operate within EU regulatory guidelines with regards to genetically modified organisms, explains Ferdinand in an interview with Agfundernews.
Founder Story: Hudson River Biotechnology