Sundew, a Dutch-Danish biotech startup focused on combating aquatic pests, diseases and invasive species, announced today the acquisition of MicroSynbiotiX in an all-share transaction. The addition of the algal RNA platform and pipeline accelerates Sundew’s commercialization. In parallel, Sundew raised 1.4 million euro in equity and convertible loan funding from The Yield Lab Europe and The Danish Growth Fund (Vaekstfonden).
In 2019, Sundew licensed technology from the Dutch Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW, Wageningen) and the University of Copenhagen to provide safe alternatives to treat waterborne pests and diseases, especially those that affect aquaculture. In the fall of 2020, Sundew took part in the StartLife Accelerate program and raised 1.4 million euro seed funding. Together with The Yield Lab Europe, one of StartLife’s investor partners, and Danish Growth Fund, the biotech company now takes a big step forward in commercialization with the acquisition of the Irish biotech startup MicroSynbiotiX.
Microalgae as a natural drug delivery platform
One of the greatest challenges for the growing aquaculture industry is managing disease. As one example, the viral white-spot disease is devastating for shrimp farms as it causes more than USD$1 billion in annual losses. Currently, one of the most commonly used method for combating fish disease is vaccination by hand-held injection, which is labor intensive, expensive and often also very impractical. MicroSynbiotiX (MSX) genetically engineers microalgae, a natural part of fish diet, to transport or vaccines to animals as needed to safely achieve the desired therapeutic effect.
The microalgal oral vaccines can be mixed with fishmeal and fed to the fish, mimicking the natural feeding process. The natural digestion process of the fish unlocks the vaccine and triggers an immune response. In addition, because the vaccine is inside the microalgae chloroplast, it is protected by a rigid cell wall and is stable in harsh environmental conditions, extending the product’s shelf life. Such an approach is sustainable, user-friendly for fish farmers, and cost-effective.
MSX’s products complement Sundew’s current product pipeline which includes Biokos, a natural and environmentally friendly product for parasitic white-spot disease, a major disease of freshwater fish (a completely different disease from viral white-spot).
The two technology platforms have multiple synergies, including development (e.g. strain improvement), production (fermentation and DSP), regulatory frameworks and marketing. The acquisition also brings MicroSynbiotiX’s intellectual property portfolio into the Sundew pipeline. This IP includes a granted patent for producing and delivering therapeutic silencing RNAs to shrimp using micro-algal fermentation and chloroplast engineering.
Giovanni Salerno, Sundew’s CEO, said, ‘we are delighted to bring MicroSynbiotiX on board. This exciting technology and the additional funding strengthen Sundew’s long-term strategy. Sundew is building a portfolio of effective, affordable and environmentally benign biological products, delivering innovative solutions that meet major needs in important aquatic markets.’
Driving sustainability in aquaculture
MSX co-founders Simon Porphy and Antonio Lamb will continue to support Sundew as scientific and technical advisors. ‘We are very excited to be part of Sundew,’ Simon said. ‘The team’s strong track record in building ventures will allow us to fully realize the potential of our technology.’ Antonio added: ‘Sundew has a great scientific team and a solid pipeline for new therapeutic products. We are very happy to be part of their vision to create environmentally benign products for the aquatic animal health industry.’
Nicky Deasy, Managing Partner at The Yield Lab Europe, said, ‘We see a unique opportunity to drive sustainability in the aquaculture industry by the combination of these two biotech companies. We look forward to the journey ahead.’
Though Sundew now raised €1.4M, we understand that there is still some room for additional funding to that. Please contact the company directly if you’re interested.