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The Gates Foundation Is Backing Lab Grown Palm Oil

January 30, 2024
x min read

Palm oil is extremely harmful to the environment. But there’s a startup who believes that biotechnology can change that.

What’s happening:

  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is giving a $3.5M USD grant to Y Combinator backed biotechnology startup C16 Biosciences

The big idea:

  • C16 Biosciences have developed a proprietary biotechnology platform that is capable of producing fermented palm oil by using yeast and agriculturally derived feedstocks
  • C16 Biosciences is able to produce fermented palm oil that has multiple applications for products across beauty, personal care and food
  • Because C16 Biosciences doesn’t require any farmland or forestry to produce their palm oil, they are unlocking a significant benefit to the climate by using biotechnology and precision fermentation to disrupt traditional palm oil harvesting

Why it matters:

  • Palm oil is the most popular vegetable oil in the entire world and is used in a wide variety of products in cosmetics, food and more
  • Palm oil production is closely linked with deforestation of some of the most biodiverse forests in the entire world
  • Harvesting palm oil often times results in burning down tropical rainforests and swamps to make way for plantations, which emits enormous amounts of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere

Going deeper:

  • Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Y Combinator and DCVC were amongst some of the early notable investors to back C16 Biosciences

By the numbers:

  • C16 Biosciences has raised $36M USD in venture capital funding since inception
  • Prior to the Gates Foundation Grant, C16 Biosciences had already received $2M USD in grant funding from the United States Department of Energy and Agile BioFoundry

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