This week in our Startup Spotlight blog series is our 2023 Winner, Better Environment Category, UN World Food Forum Startup Innovation Awards by XTC – Organicin Scientific!
Interviewed and Edited by John Martin
Six Questions for Mathew Mitchell – CTO and Founder of Organicin Scientific of Massachusetts
Mathew is a deep student of medical biology, having obtained a BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at University of Massachusetts, an MS in Physiology and Biophysics at Georgetown U., and currently pursuing his Medical Doctorate at Drexel University in Philadelphia. The core concepts for this venture originated in his BS studies, from which he incorporated Organicin, and he has been doggedly pursuing their refinement and commercialization for over five years, finally resulting in a non-equity investment of $120,000 as a result of being selected for Techstars Farm to Fork Class of 2022.
1. What problem is ORGANICIN solving and how?
We are addressing the pressing issue of antibiotic resistance, which is projected to surpass cancer as a leading cause of human death and is also a rapidly expanding threat to global agriculture that has excessively deployed pesticides for decades. Our approach utilizes a special class of antimicrobial proteins called bacteriocins, which are naturally produced by bacteria. These can be bioengineered to offer a highly targeted narrowcast approach and can effectively neutralize disease while minimizing the risk of resistance.
2. What is your background that led you to founding ORGANICIN?
Well, people say most entrepreneurship is personal. In my case, while in high school, my father suffered an exceedingly rare and life-threatening form of cancer requiring a highly invasive surgical procedure. The complicated procedure was completely successful, only for him to then suffer a severe setback from multiple superinfections. For an agonizingly long time, cycling through myriad medications, I felt deep helplessness and hopelessness; we could not even visit him due to hazmat quarantine, as many others experienced during Covid. Finally, one antibiotic worked and his life was saved. This traumatic experience left an indelible mark on me, highlighting the grave danger posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. My father had triumphed over one of the rarest and deadliest cancers, only to be brought to the brink by a few antibiotic-resistant pathogens.
This personal ordeal, coupled with my exposure to the healthcare system, ignited my passion for medicine. While searching for research opportunities as an undergraduate student, I serendipitously found the laboratory of Dr. Margaret Riley, which was dedicated to combating antibiotic resistance and treating diseases using bacteriocins. I was astounded to witness bacteriocins we had discovered in the lab effectively inhibiting notable hospital-associated multidrug resistant bacteria, the very same pathogens that had plagued my father. I was convinced of both the technology’s potential and the mission it represented. Just a year or two ago, Dr. Riley won Amherst’s Mahoney Life Sciences Prize for her bacteriocin research.
And I could not be just academic. I wanted to get this out in the field to help people like my father, so in collaboration with colleagues from the lab, I co-founded Organicin with the goal of commercializing these bacteriocins and putting an end to the threat of antibiotic resistance. This has remained my focus through my MS and MD studies.
3. What is unique about your technology and what is its validation status?
First, there are the bacteriocins themselves, which offer a level of precision that significantly mitigates the risk of contributing to antimicrobial resistance and are far more reliable than bacteriophage viruses prone to mutations. Bacteriocins are stable proteins, guaranteeing a consistent product and also making them biodegradable, breaking down into amino acids. They exhibit low toxicity and have been widely employed as natural food preservatives in nearly 50 countries, including the USA.
Second, Organicin is leveraging machine learning and AI to accelerate our discovery of novel bacteriocins. While many companies utilize known bacteriocins for food safety applications and incorporate artificial intelligence for drug discovery, no other company has developed a machine learning bacteriocin discovery engine for the comprehensive prevention and treatment of bacterial diseases in plants, animals and humans. We are leveraging this technology to revolutionize the use of bacteriocins, transitioning from their historical role in food preservation to the arena of disease prevention and treatment.
To date, our accomplishments include the creation of a bacteriocin-based shrimp feed additive designed to combat AHPND, a disease that has had a profound impact on the shrimp industry, resulting in annual economic losses of $7 billion. In two trials, our bacteriocin-based shrimp feed additive demonstrated statistically significant enhancements in shrimp survival rates, with increases of up to 165%. This success validates our core technology, both in our discovery capabilities and in the development of effective products.
4. What are your Go-To-Market ideas and traction received so far?
Our Go-To-Market strategy focuses on licensing our intellectual property to established industry leaders with robust sales and distribution networks. These commercialization partners not only endorse our product but also provide crucial support for product development and regulatory strategy, ensuring the right value propositions are defined, positioned effectively and priced competitively. In the case of our bacteriocin-based shrimp feed additive, we are collaborating with prominent shrimp feed companies to expand their product offerings and enhance their value proposition.
5. What’s next?
One of the primary advantages of our discovery platform is its ability to expedite the process of both discovery and development. In the near future, we are committed to constructing a robust bacteriocin pipeline aimed at addressing additional agricultural diseases, such as necrotic enteritis in poultry and challenges within the swine industry. Simultaneously, we will initiate the generation of preliminary data in the realm of human health diseases, such as acne and H. pylori-related conditions. These early insights will serve as a foundation for further development in collaboration with partners or through grant funding opportunities.
6. Tell us about your experience with XTC and what were the benefits/takeaways?
Working with XTC has been a remarkable journey, and participating in WFF was a game-changing opportunity. The XTC team went above and beyond in their support, providing invaluable coaching that undeniably elevated my presentation at WFF. This preparation played a significant role in the success I achieved at the event.
Beyond the structural support offered by XTC, I had the privilege of connecting with several inspiring startup founders and dedicated XTC team members who shared my vision for driving positive change through innovation. Despite my first-time visit to Europe and my initial unfamiliarity with the people I would be spending the week with, the XTC team and fellow founders made me feel right at home.
WFF, as a conference, exceeded my expectations. It was a platform where I felt a deep sense of pride in participating, as it brought together individuals from diverse corners of the world who shared a common passion for sustainable, healthy and delectable food. WFF provided me with a global stage, an essential platform to realize my vision, resulting in numerous exciting opportunities and collaborative ventures that I am eagerly looking forward to exploring.
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