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Business Opportunities in Biotech: Innovation Associate to leverage cell-free synthetic biology

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BOB (Business Opportunities in Biotech: Innovation Associate to leverage cell-free synthetic biology)

Reporting period: 2019-09-15 to 2020-09-14

c-LEcta is about to expand its outstanding cell-free synthetic biology (CFSB) platform which enables the ecofriendly and cost-competitive enzymatic production of naturally occurring high value ingredients that are hardly accessible due to e.g. limited natural resources and/or missing chemical routes. Many of these ingredients are considered to be applied in food products to improve taste, texture, the nutritional value and hence to provide the society with essentially required substances.
However, the full exploitation of this powerful technology platform requires in-depth market searches and technical evaluation wherefor c-LEcta wanted to hire a highly-committed and well educated candidate.
Under the proposal number 861867, c-LEcta gratefully received the funding for the project “Business Opportunities in Biotech: Innovation Associate to leverage cell-free synthetic biology” and started the international recruitment process. Applications from candidates from all over the world were received, proving the successful international distribution of the job offer.
The finally hired candidate holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in biochemistry as well as a PhD in the field of pharmaceutical Biotechnology. Together with research stays at European universities and several years of working experiences, the candidate was prepared to take over responsibility within various innovation processes in context with CFSB, while the training program was focused on understanding c-LEcta’s technology and well selected advanced external seminars.
Throughout the 12 months funding period, the candidate contributed to many innovation processes: By in-depth market surveys and innovation scouting, c-LEcta was able to start and to extend, respectively, feasibility studies as well as to fill its idea pipeline with two new target molecules.
Innovation Strategy for Cell-free Synthetic Biology
Upon start of the project, product ideas to be realized by CFSB were existing either only as theoretical concepts or in the form of early feasibility studies in the laboratory. Information about the market potential of individual target compounds was missing or still about to be completed.
Further, c-LEcta’s aim was to identify other compounds for new product development. .
Consequently, the main tasks performed by the Innovation Associate in this field were:

• market evaluation of several target compounds in c-LEcta’s product pipeline considered for CFBS with a special focus on applications, competitors, market prices and market potential
• comprehensive search for further high value target molecules that could be produced via CFSB including first market evaluations
• thorough calculation of production costs and alignment with possible market potentials
• presenting the collected data to the senior management and the CEO
The outcome of the surveys related enabled the senior management to select compounds with the predicted highest market potential and thereby gave a new impulse to the ongoing developmental work and encouraged c-LEcta to move on with a feasibility study for a further compound, respectively.

Additionally, the search strategy implemented by the Innovation Associate revealed at least two compounds that might find their way into c-LEcta’s product pipeline. .
Besides, the Innovation Associate attended conferences to gather general information about current trends in biotechnology as well as to build networks to strengthen c-LEcta’s reputation and to accelerate innovation processes.

Development of the Innovation Associate’s skills and Integration to the c-LEcta family
According to the training plan, the Innovation Associate was educated internally by c-LEcta’s department heads to gather an in-depth understanding of c-LEcta’s technology platform and production capabilities as well as about regulatory and quality requirements for products sold to regulated markets like the food and pharma industry.
By being directly involved in ongoing innovation processes, the Innovation Associate acquired hands-on experiences in innovation processes including identification of new target compounds, calculation of economic feasibility, market analysis and presenting the data to the senior management, the CEO and the supervisory board.
The following external trainings from professional service providers were designated under the scope of the funding:
• “Innovation & Creativity management” provided by the RWTH Aachen
• “Strategic Market and Competition analysis (Market Intelligence)” provided by the Vogel Communication group
• “Negotiation training for project leaders” by the Haufe Akademie
• “Innovation & Business Management” by EY.

Exploitation and Dissemination of Results
Innovation – the process from idea to product – takes time why just after one year publishable results cannot be expected. In principle, the tangible project results are lists with possible new targets for c-LEcta’s product pipeline and accompanying comprehensive market surveys enabling a prioritization regarding the chronological realization. Therefore, the results are not yet mature for dissemination. However, as the project results were pathbreaking in terms of selecting compounds for proof of concept studies, they gave highly important impulses for the R&D department. Given the encouraging data of these proof of concepts studies, first attempts for commercialization could be undertaken in the foreseen / mid-term future. This, on the one hand, would strengthen c-LEcta’s position as outstanding technology pioneer and thereby would help developing the local scientific and economic structures and on the other hand would enable the sustainable and cost-efficient production of high value products to promote healthy nutrition within the global society.
As the funding period has ultimately ended by the 14th of September 2020, the results can be clearly defined:
• Hiring and training of a high potential Innovation Associate for the long-term employment at c-LEcta
• comprehensive market surveys and calculations regarding possible cost structures that gave new impulses for proof of concept studies
• successful, in-depth screening for new product ideas to fill c-LEcta’s innovation pipeline
Those results may have, in the mid-term, very positive impacts of the economic situation of c-LEcta and thereby would also positively affect the socio-economic conditions in the Region Leipzig/Sachsen and beyond. The reason why is that new product development and product launch is connected to hiring further employees to cope with the tasks of project coordination and finally with the commercialization.
The commercialization of the products, which are mainly seen as ingredients for functional food, would meet the demand of the market for health-promoting compounds and would contribute to the safe and sustainable supply of currently limited feedstocks. c-LEcta’s aim is to make available such compounds at reasonable costs to support a healthy lifestyle for as many people as possible.
Last but not least c-LEcta was able to recruit and train a strongly committed, high potential Innovation Associate throughout the funding and is pleased to retain the candidate for the long-term.