Engineering Plastic Eating Enzymes with Epoch Biodesign
New My Climate Journey Podcast Startup Series
Today's guest is Jacob Nathan, CEO and Co-Founder of Epoch Biodesign.
Plastics are among the most visible and ubiquitous environmental issues plaguing Earth today. Hundreds of millions of tons of plastics are produced every year, but they weren't mass produced until after World War II (that's just one human lifetime ago). As a byproduct of the fossil fuel industry, plastics contribute significantly to the value of a barrel of oil, they create considerable emissions when produced, and they release carbon into the atmosphere when they are incinerated at the end of their lifecycle. So while plastics are a key building block of our modern world, they're also very problematic.
Epoch Biodesign is on a mission to scale and industrialize biology to solve the world's biggest climate challenges, starting with an enzyme that eats plastic and converts it to industrial chemicals. The company is currently working with unrecyclable plastics that would otherwise go to landfill or incineration. The resulting molecules from their unique biological process can be used to create new products like adhesives, cleaning products, and fertilizers.
We have a great discussion with Jacob about the role of plastics in society, their impact on climate change, how Epoch Biodesign's technology works, and the company’s plans to leverage modern compute power to unlock other biological innovations in the future.
Enjoy the show!
In today’s episode, we cover:
An overview of plastics, their origin, widespread uses, and impacts on the environment
Plastics and the fossil fuel industry
Problems associated with recycling
End of life pathways most plastics take
Epoch Biodesign's solution to addressing the plastic problem
How enzymes can break down plastics and convert them into useful chemicals with a reduced carbon footprint
The company's cell-free fermentation process and target outputs
CO2 emissions associated with producing and incinerating plastic chemicals
The origin of Epoch Biodesign
Jacob's background and how he met his Co-Founder, Douglas Kell
Douglas Kell's extensive background in systems biology, machine learning, etc.
How Epoch Biodesign uses machine learning and tooling to design a computing platform for plastic-eating enzymes
Future applications of the company's proprietary methods of designing biology
How Epoch Biodesign's software enables them to scale and solve climate problems faster
The company's business model
Adjacent opportunities including textiles
Epoch Biodesign's seed round and future financing
Who Jacob wants to hear from and open positions at Epoch Biodesign
🎙 Related podcasts:
To receive the latest My Climate Journey podcast, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.