Debut Biotech makes its entrance with a $22M series A for cell-free biomanufacturing facility

Debut Biotech wants to be the next big biomanufacturer, and the two-year-old startup thinks cell-free enzymes are the way forward. The company raised $22.6 million in series A funds Thursday to prove that out. 

The fresh proceeds will help fund a 26,000-square-foot facility in San Diego that is slated to be operational in March or April of next year, said CEO Joshua Britton in an interview with Fierce Biotech. Debut currently has a 5,000-square-foot research and development facility in the city.

Debut is focused on scaling biomanufacturing quicker and producing ingredients not available from traditional cell-based fermentation, Britton said. For example, this involves using sustainable feedstocks in place of petrochemicals, the company said. The company says this limits the amount of space, water and unsustainable inputs needed. 

However, commonplace biomanufacturing methods aren't going away.

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"Traditional fermentation has a really good place in biomanufacturing. It’s a tool, right? And our cell-free biomanufacturing part of this is just another tool," Britton said. 

The series A, led by Material Impact, will help Debut deliver on three main partnerships the company has formed in recent months and make do on more partnerships in the pipeline, Britton said.

Debut inked a "multi-million dollar deal" over the next several years with fine chemicals company DIC in late-May. The collaboration entails producing natural color ingredients for use in food, cosmetics and health products.

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Royal DSM also tapped Debut's platform to create natural ingredients for use in personal health, food and lifestyle products. The agreement, disclosed in May, starts with a proof of concept of Debut's cell-free method. Further, the startup will work with nonprofit Battelle to turn energy-dense plastic waste into new, usable materials for the DARPA ReSource program so the military reduces its reliance on transporting or burning waste. 

The synthetic biology space has seen two high-profile transactions in recent months. Ginkgo Bioworks struck a $2.5 billion special purpose acquisition company deal in May, and cell-free biomanufacturer GreenLight Biosciences was valued at $1.2 billion after inking a blank-check merger. 

Other earlier-stage companies include Invizyne, a cell-free platform based on research out of the University of California, Los Angeles.