UniCell: Single Cell Factory
A systems biology platform to lead fourth industrial revolution and prevent pollution in Bangladesh
Pitch us on your solution
The economy of Bangladesh is growing fast but missing technological and cutting-edge knowledge for sustainable development. These problems cause severe damage to the environment and public health. Examples:
- Bangladesh does not have knowledge-based manufacturing technology to produce textile enzymes. Therefore, pollution soars as Bangladesh textile sector grows. Enzymes are eco-friendly and can reduce use of toxic chemicals in textile processing.
- 138 million Bangladeshi people are suffering from lactose intolerance due to lack of knowledge to produce lactase.
Our solution to these problems is UniCell - a systems biology based microbial cell factory to produce enzymes. Unicell is our proprietary enzyme production technology that can manufacture enzymes for multiple industries like textile, leather, biofuels and nutraceuticals.
Our novel platform will make Bangladesh self-sufficient in enzymes, prevent pollution, train local talents in biotechnology, accelerate economic growth and improve quality-of-life. With these projects, a ripple effect will accelerate the fourth industrial revolution in Bangladesh.
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What is the problem you are solving?
Bangladesh is the second largest garments manufacturer, but it is also the most polluted country in the world. This pollution is caused mainly by toxic chemicals used by around 3000 textile industries in Bangladesh. In 2016, textile industries in Bangladesh generated around 217 million cubic meter of wastewater. In 2021, around 349 million cubic meter of wastewater will be produced using conventional practices. Industrial wastes and effluents containing heavy metals such as mercury, lead, chromium, cadmium, and arsenic are being released in the vicinity of the industrial areas and this polluted river water is being used for irrigation purposes in paddy and vegetable cultivation fields.
Around 170 million people are directly affected by the pollution which cause skin disease in short-term and serious health implication such as respiratory, liver and kidney diseases in long-term. Another problem that we want to solve is lactose intolerance. More than 85% Bangladeshi people are lactose intolerant which means they cannot digest milk.
Systems biology is an integral part of the fourth industrial revolution. Lack of cutting-edge knowledge prevents Bangladesh from developing systems biology technology. Bangladesh urgently needs technology to produce enzymes that can help not only the textile industry but also other public health related issues.
Who are you serving?
Our first project revolves around Bangladeshi textile industry which completely depends on imported enzymes. In a market investigation where we asked key players such as local buying houses and textile manufacturers about pain points of imported enzymes, three key features were common: imported enzymes are costly, have short shelf-life and take long time to deliver. All expressed high interest in our enzyme solutions and production platform.
Our target population for the second project is the Bangladeshi population who are genetically susceptible to lactose intolerance. Due to the lactose in milk, >85% of the population cannot digest milk without complications, thereby avoiding milk consumption and facing malnutrition and calcium deficiency. Our market analysis concludes that there is a very high need for lactose free milk in Bangladesh.
Introduction of our enzyme biotechnology solutions and infrastructure in Bangladesh will ensure a longer shelf life, affordable enzymes and on-demand delivery to the textile industry. Enzymes let textile mills and laundries save energy, time and money and at the same time they are creating a better environment by removing harmful chemicals. Biological solutions also significantly increase efficiency and productivity. Longer term, our systems biology platform can be extended to other applications important to Bangladesh.
What is your solution?
Our products perfectly respond to the Tiger challenge promotion that highlights the need of reducing the use of toxic chemicals in textile industry to improve environment.
Our solution produces enzymes using a systems biology-based platform, called UniCell. UniCell will make Bangladesh self-sufficient in enzyme production and create knowledge-based jobs. With UniCell technology, eco-friendly enzymes can be produced in Bangladesh at a lower cost than imported enzymes, with a faster turnaround and longer shelf life. Toxic chemicals will be phased out from textile production and water wastage reduced, leading to a greener and cleaner environment for everyone in Bangladesh.
Our proprietary protein expression platform was developed with Bangladesh in mind. Our company, ENZA, has successfully produced textile enzymes for every step of textile processing. Our textile products include,
- ENZA® Amyl (Amylase for textile desizing),
- ENZA® Cellu (Cellulase for bio-polish)
- ENZA® Cat (Catalase for bleach clean-up)
- ENZA® Pect (Pectinase for bio-scouring)
Sustainable textile manufacturing demand is increasing. Enzymes let textile mills and laundries save energy, time and money. Consumers and brands get the high-quality, sustainable fabrics that are swiftly rising in popularity. Globally in 2018, different bio-solutions such as desizing, bio-scouring, bleach clean-up and combi-polish, saved water equivalent to 3 million Olympic size swimming pools, eliminated CO2 emission equivalent to removing 2.65 million cars and reduced consumption of toxic chemicals by 1.5 million tons. Use of enzymes instead of chemicals for manufacturing of textile products will restore the environment in Bangladesh.
Short-term, our enzymes are aimed at the textile industry. Mid-term, we will provide these enzymes for other industries like paper, pulp, food, detergent, biofuel, and animal feed. Long-term, we will export enzymes. These actions will save and increase the foreign currency in Bangladesh.
Our product ENZA® Lact (lactase enzyme) that breaks down lactose into glucose and galactose, will be used to produce lactose-free milk. This enzyme will be available in liquid form to be used in any dairy product and also as tablets for convenient oral consumption with a dairy containing meal. Most Bangladeshi are lactase deficient or secrete insufficient levels of lactase. Lactose intolerance is exacerbated with age. ENZA® Lact will solve the lactose intolerance problem.
Our solution can help solving key challenges of Bangladesh like energy and water shortage. The platform will not only produce enzymes but also develop highly skilled scientists and professionals who can propel Bangladesh into the fourth industrial revolution and bioindustry era.
Select only the most relevant.
Where our solution team is headquartered or located:Winchester, MA, USA
In which sector would you categorize your solution?
If you selected Other, please explain here.
Environment and Health
Our solution's stage of development:Pilot
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
We have developed a unique single cell factory (UniCell) for expressing target enzymes and proteins. Our innovative expression platform combines certain genetic changes in the host organism through genetic engineering to optimize expression of target enzymes. This systems biology-based approach applies modern cutting-edge gene editing technology. Our technology is on par or better than international competitors currently involved in industrial enzyme production. Our products are more or equally efficient to other similar commercial products. There is currently no corresponding technology and no local enzyme manufacturing capacity available in Bangladesh.
Our platform is based on FDA approved generally regarded as safe (GRAS) organisms that are harmless to humans and the environment. Our selected organisms are optimized to grow in Bangladeshi climate. They contribute to a circular economy by utilizing cheap carbon sources like rice straw and other agricultural waste. Our platform is designed to work in broad range of temperature and pH, which allows us to produce enzymes at a very low cost. Expression levels are maximized by silencing specific genes and transcription factors that downregulate expression of our target enzymes. The best performing single clone is identified in a selection assay for industrial enzyme and protein production.
Another unique feature of our platform is that it can be used for expressing other proteins like human insulin and enzymes for other industries like leather, animal feed etc. The relevant target gene is inserted and since all other parameters are already optimized, it can be done within a short space of time.
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
Without technological advancements no economic growth can be sustainable. We want to bring our technology to solve the key problems of textile industry in Bangladesh. The textile industry that employs 4.5 million people and contributes 84% of the total annual exports is the backbone of the economy of Bangladesh, however, without protecting the environment this cannot be a sustainable option for Bangladesh. Our solution will help both textile industry and the environment and will ensure sustainable development.
Our solution will solve the current problems of using enzymes in the textile industry that includes cost of imported enzymes, short shelf-life and lengthy delivery times. Our market research suggests that we can deliver enzymes at least at a 35% lower price. Additionally, head-to-head comparisons have confirmed that our enzymes are better or equal to the imported enzymes.
Enzymes rapidly lose activity and require special storage condition. Imported enzymes have long delivery times and therefore have lower activity at point of delivery. We can produce enzymes based on the immediate needs of the textile manufacturers. Therefore, our customers do not need to store our enzymes for long time in their factory. Textile manufacturers can save money and have enzymes with better activity.
Our solution will encourage textile manufacturers to switch from using chemicals to enzymes in their manufacturing processes. Increased use of enzymes instead of chemicals in the textile industry will lead to a better environment and is therefore beneficial for the general health of the population.
Select the key characteristics of the population in Bangladesh your solution serves.
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
We currently provide lactase, cellulase, amylase and other enzymes to companies in USA. Our enzymes are used in diverse industries, which require the same enzymes as the textile industry. We will continue to expand our customer base in USA. With our platform proven in USA, we are ready to set up production in Bangladesh.
Within our first year in Bangladesh, we aim to set up a factory, train staff, complete tech transfer and start to offer our products to the Bangladeshi textile and dairy industry. Our forecast is to serve 40% of the Bangladeshi textile manufacturers, directly impacting 1.8 million people.
We expect to capture 75% of the Bangladeshi market for textile, lactase and other enzymes within 5 years. The direct impact will be felt by an estimated 108 million people in Bangladesh. Within this time, we will also transform other industry sectors in Bangladesh such as the leather, food and animal feed industry with our current and expanded product portfolio. In parallel, we will apply the same business model to other countries and open up local production of enzymes where it can efficiently match needs in local industries.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
Our short-term goal is to complete a technology transfer and establish a production plant in Bangladesh. We will introduce enzyme technology, train local talents and raise awareness about our enzymes. We will highlight that our products can save customers’ money, time and have a positive impact on environment. We will also raise awareness about the prevalent lactose intolerance problem in Bangladesh and how our lactase can solve this problem.
Long-term, our expectation is to expand into other industries that can benefit from our enzymes. We will continue to add new products, with great environmental impact, to our portfolio. ENZA will lead the systems biology based fourth industrial revolution in Bangladesh, establishing a cleaner and greener industry as a whole. We expect local talent to be able to start their own biotech companies, making Bangladesh a biotech hub in the world.
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
Skilled workforce: There is currently no corresponding enzyme-based industry in Bangladesh. There is a lack of experienced professionals who are ready to serve immediately in research and development in the enzyme industry. We consider the lack of a skilled workforce as the main barrier for expansion in Bangladesh.
Operational: We anticipate a transitional period where our current operational procedures will need to be adapted to Bangladeshi conditions. We do not have a direct experience of operating a manufacturing plant based on sophisticated technology in Bangladesh.
Financial: There is a need for significant amount of funds to start up a manufacturing plant and complete technology transfer to Bangladesh.
Market Barriers: There is a lack of awareness of all the benefits enzymes can bring to textile manufacturing and other industries. There is also a lack of knowledge in the general population about lactose intolerance and its symptoms.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
Skilled workforce: As we perform technology transfer, we will hire local talents and train them in biotechnology methods. Our staff in USA will temporarily relocate to Bangladesh to implement this knowledge transfer.
Operational: We will collaborate with local industry, chambers of commerce and other stakeholders on how to best operate and serve in Bangladesh.
Financial: We are currently benefitted from Angel investments alongside the company founders’ financial input. To expand our operation to Bangladesh, we will raise additional funds.
Market Barriers: Since our enzymes are affordable, have longer shelf life and shorter delivery time, we anticipate that the high interest we have seen for our products in our market analysis, will convert into manufacturing orders. At the same time, we will seek a dialogue with the Government to highlight the need to implement existing framework for phasing out use of toxic chemicals in industry.
If you selected “I am planning to expand my solution to Bangladesh,” please provide an overview of your expansion plans. What is the market opportunity for your business or product in Bangladesh?
Overview of expansion plans
To be able to expand our solution to Bangladesh, our immediate goal is to complete a technology transfer of our systems biology platform, UniCell. We will set up a manufacturing facility and train local talent to handle production.
Once textile enzymes have been successfully launched, we will expand into other industries that can use our current enzyme products, such as the paper, food and animal feed industries. We also plan to provide lactase for dairy treatment to produce lactose free milk and as food supplements.
As our products gain acceptance and penetrate the market segments, we plan to add additional enzymes for other industries such as the leather and detergent industry. Long-term plan is to manufacture biopharmaceuticals such as insulin.
Once our business is firmly established in Bangladesh, our products will be exported to other countries. Eventually, our solution will be replicated in other countries to establish local production in those countries.
Market opportunity for enzymes
Initially we target enzyme production for the textile industry. Our market assessment estimates a total 140 million USD per year for imported enzymes. Buyers have to pay 35% fees on imported enzymes. Our local production therefore already brings a competitive advantage. Since our products have longer shelf-life and are cheaper than imported enzymes, we foresee a swift acceptance of our products and broad penetration of the enzyme market segment.
Select an option below:For-profit
How many people work on your solution team?
Our multinational and diverse team is comprised of industry and academic professionals, totaling 8 passionate contributors. Our corporate office has 2 employees and our research, development and production wings have 6 employees.
Academic collaborators: 2
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
We have been working for 2 years on prototype and platform development. ENZA’s leadership team combined has more than 40 years of exposure in academia and industry.
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
Our versatile team brings together seasoned professionals with experience in textile manufacturing, enzymology, microbiology, systems biology, consumer goods distribution, customer care and marketing.
Anna-Margareta Ryden, PhD, CEO
Dr. Ryden has extensive scientific and industry experience gained in Europe and US at Takeda, Shire Pharmaceuticals, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis to drive product development and commercialization. She has helped develop and bring biologic and small molecule drugs to US, Canada and Europe. Previously, Dr. Ryden received her PhD. in Pharmaceutical Biology from University of Groningen, Netherlands. See Dr. Ryden’s research articles.
Maola Khan, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer
Dr. Khan has industrial and academic experience on enzyme and protein engineering. His scientific pedigree features genetic engineering and drug development at the world leading research institutes University of Oxford in UK, Harvard Medical School in USA, EPFL in Switzerland and RIKEN in Japan.
Dr. Khan has published in high impact journals e.g. Science, Nature Chemical Biology and Angewandte Chemie.
Satya Ranjan Sarker, PhD, Product Development
Dr. Sarker is an academic collaborator of ENZA and an associate professor of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering at Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh.
Iftekhar Biplob, BBA, Chief Business Officer
Mr. Biplob has extensive experience on management, finance and startup development in USA.
Tanushree Saha, Textile Engineer
Mrs. Saha is an academic collaborator of ENZA and an assistant professor of Textile Engineering at Dhaka University of Engineering and Technology (DUET).
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
For our Bangladeshi operation, we have established a collaboration with Jahangirnagar University and Dhaka University of Engineering and Technology (DUET) for research and development. Our partners are establishing optimal growth conditions of UniCell on locally abundant raw materials.
We have partnered with a local garment manufacturer, who will run pilot tests of our enzymes produced in Bangladesh.
What is your business model?
Our high-quality enzymes will be cheaper, have shorter delivery time and longer shelf life than the imported enzymes as they will be produced locally. This will reduce costs and risks for textile manufacturers and increase their competitiveness. Using enzymes reduces the amount of cloth that has to be discarded, further lowering manufacturers’ costs. Being local, we can offer on-demand, on-site support to resolve any technical issues with implementing the enzyme technology. Customers become compliant with existing environmental protection laws in Bangladesh.
Customer inventory can be automatically connected to our order system to facilitate seamless on-time delivery and maximize shelf life of product. Our enzymes will help customers to reduce use of water, energy and toxic chemicals, thus directly saving money and improving health and safety of staff. Customers may add a premium to their products thanks to being able to claim sustainable production methods.
Dairy manufacturers benefit from being able to provide products that can be digested by the Bangladeshi population. Sales of dairy will increase as customers become aware that they can now consume dairy products without concern for health.
There is no local competition for enzyme production in Bangladesh. We will differentiate products based on customer needs from offering basic enzyme delivery up to premium package including full on-site optimization and troubleshooting. We can help customers scale up their manufacturing and increase their savings by providing input in manufacturing process improvements dependent on enzyme use.
What is your path to financial sustainability?
Development of our products and platform technology has been funded by angel investors and cofounders. We plan to fund the technology transfer to Bangladesh with revenues from our USA based operations and additional seed funding.
We will seek grants and series A funding to set up a manufacturing plant in Bangladesh and start production. For a fast-track project completion, we estimate a need for 1.2 million USD to finance the set-up of the manufacturing plant. This grant will also cover equipment, raw materials and marketing.
First revenue income is expected in Q4 2020. Since no debt is acquired, we expect to reach break-even by Q2 2021 and capture 30% of the enzyme market for textile manufactures. The same enzymes can be used in other industries and we target revenue income from these market segments as well. Revenue will continue to accrue by selling single enzymes and bundled packages of enzymes designed to cover entire typical textile operations. Additional premium packages will be sold to cover troubleshooting and manufacturing optimization.
The end-user currently pays 4.5 USD per kg for imported enzymes. Current estimated use is 31 million kg per year, corresponding to 140 million USD. We will be able to sell enzymes for 3.15 USD per kg with a 40% profit margin. By using our products, end-users will stay competitive and have a positive long-term impact on the economy of Bangladesh.
Why are you applying to the Tiger Challenge?
We are applying to the Tiger Challenge to gain advice and suggestions for operational and strategic planning and also for financial support.
- We seek operational support to best adapt our marketing procedures for Bangladeshi conditions.
- We seek strategic support to optimize the proposed business plan for short-term and long-term approach. We seek to proactively affirm the validity of assumptions with insights from Tiger Foundation.
- Seed funding from Tiger Foundation will speed up the set-up of the manufacturing plant and start of first enzyme batch production.
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
We currently partner with Jahangirnagar University and Dhaka University of Engineering and Technology (DUET) for selection of raw materials and optimization of enzyme production. We would like to extend this collaboration with Bangladesh University of Textiles (BUTEX).
We would also like to partner with Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) to strengthen customer awareness and collect more granular market information. This will help us to provide solutions for customized needs.
To raise awareness about our enzymes in the leather industry, and to better understand this sector’s need for manufacturing process innovation, we would like to partner with Bangladesh Tanners Association (BTA).
For relieving the Bangladeshi population from lactose intolerance related symptoms, we seek to partner with dairy manufactures. We would also like to partner with milk producing companies like Milk Vita, Aarong Dairy, Pran Dairy for lactose free milk production and distribution.