Interviews Synberc Synbiobeta — 23 December 2013

Dr. Jamie Bacher took the time to interview with me on Monday to discuss his newly launched San Francisco-based start-up Pareto Biotechnologies, Inc. Pareto utilizes polyketide biosynthesis to create a potentially future-altering synthetic biology platform that generates high value designer molecules.

Jamie co-founded Pareto with a team that has extensive biotechnology roots: Salk Institute professor Joe Noel, renowned biotechnology leader and serial entrepreneur Michael Mendez, and UCSD professor Michael Burkhart.  Jamie most recently co-managed the $100M collaboration between Total and Amyris, from the Total side.  He previously worked in biofuels and therapeutics at Sapphire Energy and Rincon Pharmaceuticals.

Pareto’s recent funding from Peter Thiel’s Breakout Labs was a step forward in their production of these molecules, and has aided in validating their unique approach of making a particular class of molecules called polyketides. Polyketides have been most exploited in terms of therapeutics, for example, antibiotics and anti cancer therapy. However, Pareto has found that polyketides can be used much more broadly as well. In the short term, Pareto is focusing on developing molecules for cosmetics, flavors and fragrances industries. In the long run, however, Pareto hopes to create molecules that can be used for pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, and even industrial materials like plastics.

“We are working on a platform technology that can be applied in all of these fields. We will partner and develop the platform to quickly bring products to market. What makes this platform unique is the ability to manipulate the end product. The technology that Joe Noel had been developing over the course of more than the last decade is the foundational technology to do that and we call that designer molecules.”

Designer molecules are essentially exactly what they sound like; customized molecules designed for specific customer needs. Pareto technology allows the company to make molecules that fall within the polyketide class by design. If a customer is already happy with a specific molecule that they are making but they want an alternative source, for example, a stable source so they don’t have to rely on agriculture or a natural source so they don’t have to rely on chemistry, Pareto can supply that source. Further, if a customer is already happy with a certain chemical but wishes it had a small change to it, a change that falls within the capabilities of polyketide synthesis, Pareto can also make those changes. There is a lot of flexibility.

Jamie is optimistic about the future of synthetic biology and of Pareto Biotechnologies.

“ The opportunity is for us to rapidly bring products to market through partnerships. Opportunities for additional partners is vast- huge- there is so much we can do with this technology and so many opportunities for parallel non-competitive partnerships. From there, we expect to identify opportunities internally and capitalize on those.”

Of course there are challenges that face the industry today as well.

“Synthetic biology needs “wins”. We have had a few isolated companies who have had some levels of success and they have done well by reinventing themselves and coming up with business models that are more conducive to generating revenue as opposed to working toward distant, downstream opportunities. The explicit challenge and the opportunity for the industry is to recognize opportunities, capitalize on them, and build platform that allows us to achieve our bigger dreams.”

For now, Pareto seems to be headed down a bright path and is a definitely a leading biotech company in the molecular revolution.

 

Check out their website here.

Jamie received his B.Sc from McGill University in Biology, where he was very interested in Experimental Evolution and Evolutionary Biology, especially Directed Evolution. He then received his Ph.D in Molecular Biology from the University of Texas at Austin.

He also completed with post-doctoral at Maxygen, Inc., and The Scripps Research Institute.

 

 

 

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About Author

Rachel Epstein

Rachel works for Genome Compiler, a biotech start up in Tel Aviv, Israel which offers a new and convenient solution for genetic design and production. She an editor and author for GetSynBio where she strives to bring all synthetic biology content together. Rachel is originally from New York and received her BA from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Rachel has lived and worked in Peru, Spain, Italy and Israel.

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