Chinova Bioworks is a highly motivated team consisting of founder Natasha Dhayagude and COO David Brown . Last year in the US over 700,000 people got infections from visiting a hospital. We threw out $109B worth of rotten food and beverages, and over 200,000 bottles of cosmetics spoiled. These are just a few statistics on the worldwide war against bad microorganisms. Each year people get sick, food rots on the shelves, and any product susceptible to spoilage undoubtedly spoils. Each industry faces the common problem of microbes, but with different microorganisms to combat. For example: Fruit juice contains mostly Lactobacillus; Hospitals are affected by Staphylococcus and a group of other opportunistic microbes. The traditional “one size fits all” antimicrobial agents are becoming less effective.
At the same time, industries are under pressure from the public to use less chemical sounding preservatives in products. Something about drinking sodium benzoate just does not sound attractive.
We caught up with Chinova’s CEO Natasha Dhayagude over a month after the 2016 IndieBio EU accelerator finished to see their progress.
Who are Chinova Bioworks?
The goal of Chinova Bioworks is to solve the common problem of microbial contamination. The traditional “one size fits all” antimicrobial agents are becoming less effective and industries are looking for personalized antimicrobial solutions.
Chinova Bioworks developing a solution, using a unique biopolymer called Chitosan. The key benefit of this platform technology is that we can personalize a highly effective, safe and natural antimicrobial to address the needs of each industry’s individual microbial issues.
Currently, Chinova Bioworks has a focus on the beverage industry, specifically fresh juices. This industry is growing at an incredible rate due increased consumer demand for natural, organic juices but faces a major problem when it comes to spoilage and shelf-life. This sector is currently limited by the quality of natural processing aids or preservatives available to decrease spoilage and enhance shelf-life, leaving companies looking to find chemical and synthetic alternatives, which are not appreciated by consumers. By formulating a preservative to specifically target single or groups of microorganisms causing the problem of spoilage we are able to enhance the shelf-life of the beverage. In fruit juice, for example, we have a formulation that inhibits the growth of six major spoiling microbes, effectively extending the shelf-life far beyond what was once possible.
Starting in the beverage space, we hope to make advancements that will allow us to grow into the higher-end markets like the medical and pharmaceutical industries.
Where did you get your inspiration for your product?
I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from the University of New Brunswick in Canada. My first job at an accelerator/ incubator immersed me into the world of startups and involved connecting startups to resources and helping them navigate through all their challenges. I had the opportunity to meet with many great startups working in various industries, but one biotech startup in particular called Mycodev Group peaked my interest. I have always wanted to work in a field where I could combine my knowledge and experience of both science and business. I joined forces with Mycodev and started a spin-off company, where we use the product they supply and fine-tune it to target specific spoilage microbes for use in the beverage industry. Mixing both my passions helped me create the perfect balanced reaction with the product being a company that I am extremely passionate about.
What is your goal/aspiration in business and life?
My goal and aspiration in business and life is to be a mentor and advocate for young women to pursue post-graduate education, especially in STEM fields. At my university, I was surprised to see that so many of my friends chose not to go on to post-secondary education and that so few women are enrolled in the field of STEM. I was one of six women to graduate from my program out of a starting class of 400. My sister is one of two girls in the Electrical Engineering Program at University. Through my business I hope to be an inspiration and a mentor to young women pursuing STEM careers and help them to be leaders in their field.
Where will Chinova be in two years?
Chinova is developing a platform technology that can be applied to many different industries facing similar problems of microbial contamination. Some of the biggest problems in the healthcare industry today are antibiotic resistance and patient infections. We want to grow Chinova to be a leader in offering solutions to the complex and growing issues facing food, beverage, cosmetics, medical and pharmaceutical applications.
Inset right: Results from the antimicrobial chitosan cocktail at various concentrations at the IndieBio EU 2016 programme demonstrated increased efficacy at killing spoilage microbes in cold pressed juices.
Any setbacks/learning points from experience so far?
Our biggest learning point from our experience so far is to make sure we plan everything. Planning out our actions and goals daily, weekly and monthly has been extremely helpful in keeping us on top of our tasks and completing them in a timely manner. Organisation goes a long way in the early stages of a startup and it is best to get into the habit of tracking all progress and logging daily actions very early on.
Expect big things from this startup in the near future!
Apply to IndieBio EU 2017 today!