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New Biotechnology Startup Puts down Roots at Pennovation Center

It’s all in the leaves: Biotechnology startup PhylloZyme looks to revolutionize a decades-old fermentation production system and bring plant-produced enzyme products to market.

Media Contact: Jennifer Rizzi, Director, Communications, Penn Facilities & Real Estate Services, 215.573.6107, rizzi@upenn.edu

November 12, 2018

The University of Pennsylvania’s Division of Facilities and Real Estate Services announced today that PhylloZyme has signed a lease for a 600 square foot lab within the Pennovation Center, the university’s nexus of entrepreneurial activity and advancements in research, commerce, and community.

PhylloZyme is the most recent addition to Pennovation’s list of biotech companies to watch.  The startup develops plant-produced enzymes that can be used to produce and process a variety of everyday items — beverage (coffee, fruit juices, alcohol), textile, paper/pulp, bioenergy, animal feed, and food.  Research scientists at PhylloZyme test the performance and commercial validity of industrial enzymes produced using the novel leaf production platform developed in the academic laboratory of the company’s Technology Founder, Henry Daniell, Ph.D.

Dr. Daniell, Professor of Biochemistry and Director of Translational Research at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Dental Medicine, has partnered with Phyllozyme to transform the current cost-prohibitive landscape of fermentation-based enzymes.

Existing microbial production systems are decades old and require expensive fermentation facilities, purification from host cells (fungi, bacteria), formulation to increase concentration, stabilizing agents, cold storage, and temperature-controlled transportation.  Current technology is not affordable, sustainable, renewable, or environmentally friendly and releases C02, that contributes to global warming.  PhylloZyme’s plant-produced enzymes follow a different model because plants absorb C02, thereby decreasing global warming.  Enzymes produced in leaves are: 1) stable for many years when stored at room temperature as dry leaf powder, 2) fully functional without purification or super-concentration, processing, or formulation, and 3) effective in a broad range of pH and/or temperatures for various biotechnology applications.  Dr. Daniell and his team put it plainly: plant-produced enzymes like the ones currently being validated for commercial-scale production by PhylloZyme are by comparison staggeringly more dynamic, cost-effective, resilient, and industrially important, environmentally friendly, renewable, and sustainable.

PhylloZyme is the first company to produce shelf-stable enzymes in leaves.  To accommodate a growing team and further cultivate the novel platform technology pioneered by Dr. Daniell, the business founders were drawn to the Pennovation Center, the anchor building at Pennovation Works.  The Center makes sense for two reasons, both for its proximity to Dr. Daniell’s laboratory and greenhouse on the larger Pennovation Works site, and also for its access to the University’s expanding network of entrepreneurs, researchers, and industry partners hard at work translating innovation and invention into viable ventures.

With Dr. Daniell’s technical expertise, a novel product, a market need, a state-of-the art equipped lab, and bridges to some of the brightest minds in biotechnology today, PhylloZyme believes that it is poised to see significant advancement during its first year.  A publication on the launch of the first enzyme products developed in leaves will soon appear in a high-impact scientific journal.

“PhylloZyme is joining an incubating environment where ideas and businesses are actively encouraged to collide and some of the most exciting and promising new ventures are taking flight,” says Anne Papageorge, Vice President, Facilities & Real Estate Services at Penn.  “The 58,000 square foot Pennovation Center was designed to stimulate entrepreneurial activity, promote the commercialization of just such research discoveries, and accelerate connections to investors and corporate and economic development partners.  We look forward to meeting the needs and surpassing the expectations of the researchers and rising talents in each new office, lab, and garage inside Pennovation’s larger, vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

About The Pennovation Center

The Pennovation Center is a 58,000 square-foot three-story facility designed for start-up companies, entrepreneurs, and inventors looking to be part of a unique community of innovators, and includes a full service technology incubator; basic wet and dry laboratories; private offices, Inventor Garages, as well as a coworking space for up to 200 members, operated by 1776.  It opened in October 2016 as the centerpiece of the University of Pennsylvania’s Pennovation Works, a 23-acre development adjacent to the University campus on the southern bank of the Schuylkill River providing facilities and amenities to bridge intellectual and entrepreneurial initiatives among University researchers, private sector innovators, and start-ups.  Owned by the University, and operated by its Division of Facilities and Real Estate Services, Pennovation Works houses research labs from Penn’s schools of Arts & Sciences, Dental Medicine, Design, Engineering & Applied Science, and Veterinary Medicine, and companies such as Qualcomm Philadelphia Research Lab, Netronix, and Limelight Bio.  Approximately 85 companies and 350 innovators are currently located at Pennovation, where ideas go to work. 

Visit pennovation.upenn.edu and follow @PennovationWorks on Facebook, @PennovationWork on Twitter, @PennovationWorks on Instagram, and @PennovationWorks on LinkedIn.

PhylloZyme Team
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