Redesigning Cell Function

November 28, 2023
4 min read
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How can we solve the scale-up dilemma with traditional, aerobic fermentation processes?

  • Is it possible to genetically modify the central metabolism of a cell?
  • How much does society utilize fermentation processes to create everyday products?

Recently, we had the pleasure of sitting down with the CEO of Izote Biosciences, Victor Reyes-Umaña, to explore a revolution, quietly unfolding, that is reshaping how we produce everything from natural products to groundbreaking proteins. If any of the above questions piqued your curiosity, keep reading or watch his video below!

"The emergence of SynBio is analogous to that of software in the past decade. However, the ancillary ecosystem for synthetic biology to mature to its potential is still lacking, and there is no clarity yet on how it will be built; our current economy is set up as an industrial one, but a bioeconomy will have a different configuration."

Kira Noodleman - Partner, Bee Partners

Read more about this industry's anticipated challenges in our Synthetic Biology Insight Paper or more about the mission and vision of Izote Biosciences on their website.


Victor, CEO of Izote Biosciences, explains how synthetic biology advances by altering organisms' genetic makeup to produce valuable substances. He focuses on revolutionizing fermentation processes, and changing how cells generate energy.

At Izote, they're exploring unique metabolisms to scale up fermentation without relying on oxygen. Their innovation allows for diverse product creation, overcoming traditional limitations of anaerobic fermentation. They're redefining oxygen-free fermentation by understanding unique proteins and inserting them into new organisms for non-oxygen environments.

Victor Reyes-Umaña: Diverse Product Generation

The Promise of Oxygen-Free Synthesis

Unraveling the Genome: A New Frontier

Synthetic biology has reached a pivotal juncture where mining genomes worldwide has become a reality. This capability allows us to decipher the roles of enzymes, understand technological potential, and meticulously engineer processes, workflows, and genes. Victor passionately articulates how these scientific leaps enable organisms that traditionally didn't produce certain natural products or proteins to now do so efficiently, revolutionizing the way we harvest and deliver these innovations to the world.

Synthetic Biology: A Catalyst for Creativity

Victor draws attention to the transformative power of synthetic biology, highlighting its potential to drive novel workflows for creating innovative products. His work, originating from his doctoral studies in the Coates lab, takes a unique approach. It involves modifying the central metabolism of cells, reshaping the way they respire and generate energy—a departure from conventional fermentation hosts.

Metabolism, as Victor describes, is the mechanism by which life generates energy. He emphasizes the diversity of metabolisms existing in the world and Izote's profound interest in harnessing these variations to unlock value in the fermentation industry. Izote tackles the scale-up challenge using an intriguing approach—tapping into a unique metabolism that doesn't rely on oxygen, paving the way for oxygen-free fermentation.

Redefining Fermentation: The Oxygen-Free Advantage

Traditionally, oxygen-free fermentation has been associated with limited products like ethanol or acetone. However, Izote's groundbreaking technology transcends these constraints. By employing a different soluble molecule that mimics oxygen's function, they enable cells to produce an array of proteins and molecules, shattering the limitations of traditional anaerobic fermentation.

Did you know that with oxygen-free fermentation, cells are able to generate almost as much energy as they would with oxygen?

Victor elucidates how Izote's innovation unlocks the potential of oxygen-free fermentation for synthetic biology. By delving into the proteins driving this unique metabolism, they gain insights that allow these functionalities to be introduced into diverse organisms, enabling them to thrive in oxygen-free environments previously unattainable.

The strides made in synthetic biology by visionaries like Victor are redefining what's possible in fermentation. They're not merely exploring scientific frontiers but blazing trails toward a future where innovation knows no bounds. Izote's groundbreaking approach promises a paradigm shift in how we envision fermentation, setting the stage for a world where the limitations of traditional methods become a thing of the past.

The journey of synthetic biology and oxygen-free fermentation is still in its infancy, but the transformative potential it holds for industries ranging from biotechnology to pharmaceuticals is undoubtedly immense. As Victor and innovators alike continue to push boundaries, we anticipate a future where the impossible becomes possible, all thanks to the fusion of science and creativity in synthetic biology.

2 Key Takeaways:

  • Anaerobic Fermentation Unleashes Unprecedented Potential: Izote's groundbreaking strides in oxygen-free fermentation signify a departure from the norm. By leveraging a unique metabolism independent of oxygen, the company can transcend the boundaries of limited product ranges. This innovative technology, utilizing soluble molecules to mimic oxygen's role, not only expands the spectrum of producible molecules but also paves the way for diverse organisms to thrive in oxygen-free environments, setting a stage for unprecedented advancements in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
  • Synthetic Biology Shifts Fermentation Paradigms: The ability to mine genomes globally and engineer organisms has unlocked avenues for traditionally inert entities to produce valuable products efficiently. This shift in approach not only redefines the production process but also opens doors for previously unattainable innovations, challenging the conventional limitations of fermentation.

Victor came through our fourth fund, and since the investment, the team has continued to grow its service and personnel. Click here to learn more about the Company and Team, or here if you are a Founder innovating in any of our three vectors.

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