Synthetic biology startup Lygos raises $13 million from OS Fund and IA Ventures to make cleaner chemicals

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Lygos uses microbugs to convert low-cost sugar into specialty chemicals used in manufacturing, and is now releasing a technique to make malic acid, an ingredient needed in the mass production of electronics.

To do so, the company announced today it has raised $13 million in Series A funding led by OS Fund and IA Ventures, with participation from First Round Capital, Y Combinator’s Continuity Fund, Fifty Years, Vast Ventures and various angel investors.

There are a few biotech startups that have started to pop up in the chemical manufacturing space, such as New Light Technologies, Biomethodes and Ginkgo Bioworks.

Each has a specialty — Ginkgo focuses on developing scents and flavors using microorganisms, for instance. Lygos pioneered a technique to use microbugs to make specialized chemicals instead of the oil-based petrochemicals generally used in the industry.

The startup engineers its special microbes to produce the chemicals in-house, combining software and new biochemistry technology to make its materials at scale, and tells TechCrunch it started shipping the first bio-malonic acid-producing microbes to customers.

Jeffrey Klunzinger, managing partner at venture capital firm OS Fund, equated Lygos’ work with the Industrial Revolution, saying his firm invested in the startup because of its interest in the space and Lygos’ unique technology. “Lygos uniquely has the technology to produce a stable supply of industrial chemicals with no environmental impact and at lower cost. They are building better products that are clean, sustainable and have cost and quality advantages over their petrochemical counterparts.”

Lygos is now producing “metric ton quantities” of its bio-malonic acid products and says it plans to use the new funding to “enter this next phase of growth and continue building our team, our manufacturing, and QC infrastructure, all while providing more fuel for our innovation engine to develop the next new products using our microbial manufacturing technology.”

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