Toronto-based biotechnology startup Genecis was selected as the winner of BASF Canada’s first Innovation Pitch Series for developing a synthetic biology platform to convert organic waste into premium chemicals and materials.
BASF is a German-based chemical company that is one of the largest chemical producers in the world. According to BASF Canada’s website, it looks to “create chemistry for a sustainable future.”
“BASF seeks to work with innovative partners to strategically solve today’s global challenges,” said Marcelo Lu, president of BASF Canada. “We are proud to support a Canadian startup company which is providing a sustainable solution for organic waste.”
A variety of digital and sustainability-focused startups were considered, with the top four companies tasked with pitching sustainable business solutions to BASF Canada. Genecis was selected after receiving 80 percent of the vote by employees and an executive leader panel. The event was hosted at the MaRS Discovery District.
“With BASF’s support, Genecis can accelerate towards our vision of turning the waste of today into the platinum of tomorrow.”
Genecis is a biotechnology company that recycles organic food waste into high-value biodegradable PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate) plastics. The company’s technology is an environmentally greener alternative to current organic waste recycling methods, and claims to output products that are seven times more valuable within a third of the time. The Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) named Genecis as the winner of its Social Enterprise Pitch competition in May 2018.
Founded in 2016 at the University of Toronto, Genecis is made up of scientists and engineers from distinctive backgrounds in biotechnology, biochemistry, engineering, data analytics, and automation. The company’s mission is to make premium chemicals and materials accessible. It is partnered with 15 research institutions and organizations, has six developments in the pipeline, and has processed 1,880 kg of food waste.
Genecis is commercializing its first product line of Poly(3-hydroxybutyrate-co-3-hydroxyvalerate), or PHBVs, a high-quality biodegradable plastic that is used to make thermo-resistant packaging, compostable coffee pods and 3D printing filaments. By developing a technology platform that uses organic waste as the feedstock, Genecis aims to dramatically reduce the cost of production. Its next step is to rapidly engineer bacteria that converts organic waste into high-grade specialty chemicals.
“This means much more to us than just a reward; it signifies an opportunity to develop a potential long-term partnership with BASF, where we can provide benefit to a company with global reach,” said Luna Yu, CEO and founder of Genecis. “This also provides a validation of our ability to make an impact in the expanding SynBio industry. With BASF’s support, Genecis can accelerate towards our vision of turning the waste of today into the platinum of tomorrow.”
The criteria for BASF Canada’s first Innovation Pitch Series were grounded in BASF’s company purpose to create chemistry for a sustainable future. Expositions were required to feature a practical, lasting business plan for a scalable product or service in a global market. In addition to receiving $10,000, Genecis will meet with BASF’s innovation team to consider prospects for collaboration.
“Genecis is solving two massive global challenges at once, food and plastic waste, with an innovative solution that has the potential to change our world, so it’s no surprise that they were selected by BASF for this important award,” said Jane Kearns, senior cleantech advisor at MaRS Discovery District. “Genecis was also one of six finalists chosen by a panel of expert judges from across North American for our Women in Cleantech Challenge, so continue to expect more big news from this impressive company.”
Image courtesy Genecis.