By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Knoxville area readers may recall Rob Moseley and a company named SimPath that presented at the 2015 “Start-up Day” celebration.
“We were very early then,” the company’s Founder says. “We are much further along today on our plan and strategy.”
The start-up, which is a DNA assembly service for companies and labs to reduce time and costs by outsourcing the building of Synthetic DNA, just executed an exclusive license with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) for a novel cloning system that generates and assembles the biological building blocks necessary to synthetically bioengineer new medicines and fuels. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Click here to read this teknovation.biz article on the license.)
“We’ve licensed that technology, will be integrating it into our automation platform, and add design software,” Moseley said. “Together, we are providing a biological design platform targeted at anyone trying to make bioproducts.”
Moseley is one of the students in the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education operated by the University of Tennessee and ORNL. He entered the doctoral program after earning his B.S. in Environmental Science and M.S. in Biology at Georgia College and teaching for a year.
“I was interested in the Bredesen Center because of the entrepreneurship component,” Moseley told us. He described himself as a Phycologist – someone who studies algae.
“I wanted to do an algal start-up,” Moseley said. After arriving in Knoxville, he learned that there was not much research in that technology sector underway at ORNL. So, during his first semester, Moseley switched to plant synthetic biology.
“It’s a very specific niche area,” he says, but adds that the “market is huge. Only about 200 companies in the U.S. are considered synthetic biology companies, and about $1 billion was invested in start-ups in the sector last year.”
Synthetic biology is defined as the application of engineering principles to biology, often via the manipulation of DNA. Start-ups in the sector are engineering cells to produce everything from painkillers to jet fuel.
Moseley explains that SimPath is focused on using synthetic biology to accelerate biomanufacturing, a rapidly growing sector that offers fast and less expensive methods to design, build and test new products that can disrupt markets.
Yet, bottlenecks exist in R&D’s design and build stages, leading to increased costs and research slowdowns. That’s where SimPath steps in, streamlining these stages for scientists so that they can test hundreds of ideas in less time and at a similar or lower cost as existing technology.
SimPath has its minimum viable product in beta testing. As noted here, “SimPath provides everything from DNA design details and in-house library access to preferred shipping options” during the design stage of a beta customer’s construct. “Beta customers can expect reduced prices and early access to SimPath’s DNA design tool, as well as any future products and services.”
The start-up recently secured a Phase 2 grant under ORNL’s Technology Innovation Program. In addition, Moseley, who will graduate next spring with his doctorate, is trying to raise seed stage funding, particularly from strategic investors who will provide advice as well as funding.
“There are many things we can do upstream and downstream,” Moseley says.