In Blog, Cohort Profile

Two dynamic scientists came together to found SwaLife Biotech, a company that has developed a technology that isolates nine novel molecules from plants. These molecules enhance the skin DNA repair process, and with them the team has developed sunscreen, anti-aging cream, and skin repair cream.

The duo is led by CEO and co-founder Dr. Pravin Badhe. Pravin has over twelve years of experience in the pharmaceutical field, with experience that includes targeted drug discovery and drug repurposing for rare diseases. Complementing Pravin is CSO and co-founder, Mr. Basudev Paudyal. Basudev completed his MSc in cancer biology from Kingston University. He is a skilled researcher and brings his keen eye for data analysis and interpreting results to the team.

This company sprang from an idea Pravin had while working in a pharmacy. He observed that many patients sought medicines with a plant origin in addition to their prescribed medication. After sharing his idea with Basudev, the pair began researching isolated molecules and observing their response to skin cancer.

Wanting to take the company further, the team came across RebelBio as an active investor in synthetic biology and applied to join the program. Pravin explains, “This was a very exciting moment in our start-up journey. Joining RebelBio helped us gain mentors, connections, and funds. We have formulated our first product and are talking with multiple cosmetic companies for sale.”

Through the RebelBio program, the team has learned how their science can be applied to a product that will help people and accelerate the business side of their research. After RebelBio Demo Day in London on Wednesday, July 26, the team plans to perform regulatory work with labs based in India, and to develop their bulk manufacturing plan with the UK-based company Statfold Seed Oils, in order to launch their skin care products at the end of 2017. Lastly, with labs based in London and India, the company plans to continue optimising the molecules that work to improve the DNA damage response pathways of skin and breast cancer.

From using the molecules found in crops for skin care, biotechnology is also exploring how to increase crop production while avoiding the laborious, expensive regulation associated with introducing genetically modified foods to public consumption. This type of technology is exactly what RebelBio cohort IV company, Plantedit, is tackling. Their mission is to produce eco-friendly, sustainable, and healthier food products via genome editing tools. Plantedit’s team is led by three PhD holders with a range of knowledge, from plant biotechnology to business development. CEO and Founder, Dr. Chidananda Nagamangala Kanchiswamy (Chida), holds a PhD in biotechnology. During his PhD and postdoc fellowship, he explored plant genome editing using CRISPR/Cas9, a type of DNA editing splicing tool revolutionising the study of DNA. His peer review articles cover genome editing, tissue culture, and the transformation of crop species. The next member of the team, Dr. OK-Jae Koo, contributes his decade of experience with plant and animal genome editing. Along with his scientific background, he is also an expert in business and intellectual property strategies; key components for bringing Plantedit products to market. Rounding out this team of intellectuals is Dr. Michele Poli. Michele brings his experience in plant transformation and the practice of tissue culture of a multitude of crop species.

Chida initially spent time at the Foundation Edmund Mach in Trento, Italy, developing genetically modified apples and grapevines. Although his team successfully developed products that resisted insects, increased fruit quality, and improved taste and shelf life, this product could not be successfully brought to market because of the social and regulatory hurdles associated with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). However, Chida is a hustler, and determined to bring improved crops to the market. He decided to develop eco-friendly, sustainable, and non-GMO technology. Through this work, he realised that academia was not the ideal place for him. He wanted to bring his work to the market and fully commercialise genome editing products, so he brought Plantedit to life. Chida embraced the life of an entrepreneur after talking about his research and initial stages with Dr. John Carrigan, CSO of RebelBio, Dr. Elsa Sotiriadis, Program Director of RebelBio, and Bill Liao, General Partner of SOSV and Founder of RebelBio. The trio invited Plantedit to join cohort IV of RebelBio.

Plantedit’s first success was tweaking the soya bean. They used genome editing tools without introducing any foreign genetic materials. The oil from their soya bean is equivalent to the composition of olive oil, making it healthier and tastier than traditional soya bean oil. Products like Plandedit’s soya bean will work to feed the growing global population while following current GMO regulations.

Plantedit is bringing their business to the market with the help of RebelBio. Chida explains, “Being an academic scientist and getting into the life of an entrepreneur was challenging. RebelBio consistently supported me, provided mentorship, and instilled a sense of community amongst the 15 companies of cohort IV. I am proud to be a part of the RebelBio community.”

Be sure to check out all 15 teams at RebelBio’s Demo Day on Wednesday, July 26 via livestream!

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