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Biotech Converting CO2 to Food Components Raises $7M

CO2 molecule model

Carbon dioxide molecule model (Jynto, Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Carbon_dioxide_3D_ball.png)

7 Mar. 2022. A start-up company creating a process to convert carbon dioxide into food protein elements with microorganisms is raising $7 million in seed funds. Arkeon Biotechnologies in Vienna, Austria is spun off from microbiology labs at University of Vienna studying physiological processes of archaea, ancient microorganisms harnessed to convert CO2 into amino acids that make up food.

Archaea are a type of bacteria, and early form of single cell organisms without a nucleus that predate and are believed to be forerunners of eukaryotic cells with a nucleus found in more advanced plants and animals. They’re particularly hardy microorganisms that survive in extreme environments. Microbiologist Simon Rittmann and colleagues at University of Vienna study archaea, including industrial applications of the microbe’s physiology. One of those applications is fermentation, in this case using archaea to metabolize and convert CO2 into amino acids, the basic building blocks of organic matter. Rittmann is the scientific founder of Arkeon Bio and its chief scientist.

Arkeon Bio plans to harness archaea for fermenting CO2 into 20 amino acids that comprise food products consumed by humans, with those amino acids combined into short strings called peptides. The company says it plans to capture CO2 from industrial plants for fermenting into amino acids, without taking up arable land, growing or harvesting crops, or feeding animals. Arkeon Bio says its one-step process is 20 times more efficient than photosynthesis and carbon-negative, which means it absorbs more CO2 than it produces.

“A sustainable, low-emission system”

“For the first time in history,” says Arkeon Bio co-founder and CEO Gregor Tegl in a statement emailed to Science & Enterprise, “we can turn the equation of modern food production upside down and turn a resource-intensive industry into a sustainable, low-emission system.”

Arkeon Bio is raising $7 million in its seed finance round, from environmental investors Synthesis Capital in London and ReGen Ventures in San Francisco. Synthesis Capital invests in companies aiming to transform the food system with new technologies, while ReGen Ventures backs what it calls regenerative solutions to save the planet. Arkeon Bio began operations in August 2021, and is supported by Evig Group in Berlin that incubates new companies developing alternative food technologies and processes.

In the past few months, Science & Enterprise reported on companies with new processes for producing proteins with less environmental damage. In November 2021, Tiamat Sciences in Durham, North Carolina and Brussels, Belgium raised $3 million for its plant-based technology to manufacture proteins that the company says can replace many of today’s methods for making synthetic proteins with conventional bioreactors and animals.

In August 2021, Greenlight Biosciences went public in a special purpose acquisition company or SPAC merger. Greenlight Biosciences produces synthetic ribonucleic acid, or RNA, initially for safer and sustainable pesticides for growers, but also for developers of vaccines and therapeutics in health care. The company says it uses a cell-free process to produce RNA strands from enzymes programmed like chemical templates.

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Update, 8 Mar. 2022: Corrected spelling of company co-founder’s name.

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