ByBug Nets $1.4M for Fly-Powered Protein Tech

In a major stride for biotechnology and sustainable agriculture, Chilean startup ByBug has successfully raised a $1.4 million seed round to advance its innovative platform for producing recombinant proteins using genetically engineered black soldier flies (BSF). The funding round, led by Südlich Capital and supported by Arpegio VC, GRIDX, Halcyon Venture Partners, and Atento Capital, marks a significant milestone for the company as it prepares to expand its R&D efforts and initiate commercial operations in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

José del Solar, cofounder of ByBug, revealed to AgFunderNews that the company currently operates an R&D center in Chile, which includes a semi-industrial BSF rearing plant and a molecular biology laboratory. These facilities are crucial for testing the downstream processes at a laboratory scale. In Tulsa, ByBug has established a commercial office, and the next funding round aims to implement an industrial pilot featuring a BSF plant and a recombinant protein purification facility.

Del Solar emphasized the economic advantages of using BSF over traditional precision fermentation methods involving engineered microbes. “The upstream cost of BSF is 10 to 20 times cheaper,” he explained, attributing this to lower feedstock costs—BSF larvae thrive on agricultural byproducts rather than purified sugars—along with reduced capital expenditure and labor costs. The maintenance costs for BSF are also notably lower, and scaling up BSF biomass is more straightforward compared to the complex scaling and standardization required for microbial bioreactors.

“The global production capacity of BSF is at least 100 times greater than the current capacity of precision fermenters,” del Solar asserted, highlighting the scalability of this technology. Beyond the economic benefits, insects like BSF are better suited for producing certain high-value proteins due to their evolutionary similarity to mammals, which allows them to perform post-translational modifications that microbes cannot. This capability is particularly valuable in sectors such as human and animal pharmaceuticals.

The choice of black soldier flies over other insects like fruit flies is strategic. BSF do not carry diseases or act as pathogens, produce more protein per gram of biomass, and exhibit greater tolerance to biotic and abiotic factors. Furthermore, the infrastructure for intensive and automated rearing of BSF is already in place, making large-scale production feasible.

ByBug differentiates itself from competitors like BugEra, FreezeM, Flybast, and Entozyme through its advanced genetic editing platform, which significantly accelerates the development of new strains. The company has filed two patent applications: one for its BSF strain transportation system and another for its genetic editing methodology for insects.

ByBug’s product pipeline includes high-protein insect flour containing recombinant proteins, which eliminates the need for costly purification processes, and purified recombinant proteins. The seed round will support the development of scalable downstream processing and purification methods. Byproducts such as high-protein biomass, insect frass, and fatty acids offer additional revenue streams.

In the segment of unpurified proteins, ByBug is collaborating with Aquit to develop an immunostimulant for fish that reduces antibiotic use in aquaculture. For purified proteins, the company is working on therapeutic monoclonal antibodies for animals and offers a recombinant protein production service to various clients globally, though details remain confidential.

ByBug’s innovative approach to recombinant protein production using BSF not only promises significant cost savings and scalability but also opens new avenues for sustainable agriculture and biotechnology. As the company gears up for its next phase of growth, it stands poised to make a substantial impact on the industry.

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