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Press Release

Breakout Labs Selects Four New Companies Commercializing Advancements in Bioscience, Energy and Chemical Engineering

Thiel Foundation
Posted on: 11 Oct 16

Breakout Labs, a seed-stage fund for hard science, announced today that four new companies advancing scientific discoveries in biotechnology, chemical engineering and energy have been selected for funding.

“At Breakout Labs, we invest in daring entrepreneurs who are developing novel scientific technologies in new categories that defy traditional industry labels,” said Lindy Fishburne, Executive Director of Breakout Labs. “The four new companies joining our portfolio – ZymoChem, Opus 12, Azitra and Seatrec – each demonstrate our commitment to catalyzing scientific discoveries across broad applications. The technologies they’re commercializing will have enormous impact on the world, and create value for a number of industries that are in desperate need of innovation.”

Treating skin conditions with supercharged probiotics

Farmington, CT-based Azitra, Inc. ( is using the skin’s own microbiome to create innovative, inexpensive, and sustainable treatments for skin diseases ranging from eczema to staph infections. The company’s proprietary candidate, "AZT-01," is a recombinant strain of a safe skin bacterium that secretes therapeutic proteins.

“The microbiome is an explosive field, and we're using cutting edge genetic tools to enhance natural and safe bacteria as a platform for novel therapeutics,” said Travis Whitfill, Co-founder and CSO of Azitra. “We are very excited to join the Breakout Labs community—its support will propel us forward with our proof-of-concept preclinical studies in eczema. Many patients with skin disease are suffering from symptoms that are not fully addressed with current treatment options, and we hope to provide effective therapeutics that treat the root cause of eczema and eventually other skin diseases with our platform.”

Creating value with carbon dioxide

Each year U.S. companies release 2.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere because they lack useful, cost-effective ways to capture and reuse CO2 waste. Berkeley, CA-based Opus 12 ( has created a reactor that captures CO2 at the source of emission, and utilizes water and electricity to transform it into safe, cost-competitive chemicals and fuels.

"We founded Opus 12 based on the belief that the fastest way to scale environmental impact is through market-driven solutions,” said Nicholas Flanders, Co-founder and CEO of Opus 12. “By transforming CO2 from low-value waste into high-value products, we can reduce emissions and generate tremendous economic benefit simultaneously."

Powering ocean research with thermal recharging technology

Several tons of environmentally harmful lithium batteries are discarded into the ocean every year while performing vital marine research. Seatrec, ( a spinoff of NASA JPL/Caltech that’s based in Pasadena, CA, has created a unique solution to generate electricity from temperature differences in the ocean. Its first product, the Seatrec Thermal Recharging (TREC) battery, eliminates the need for lithium batteries and uses renewable energy drawn from the ocean itself to power underwater platforms and unmanned vehicles for ocean exploration.

“Harvesting the thermal energy associated with temperature differences in the ocean is the only scalable and cost effective way to power unmanned underwater vehicles with unlimited capacity and endurance,” said Dr. Yi Chao, Founder and CEO of Seatrec. “We’re confident in TREC’s potential to change the future for undersea exploration, defense, and industry. Looking ahead, we will use the TREC technology to provide remote off-grid power on land and ice.”

Replacing petroleum with sugar to produce chemicals sustainability

ZymoChem (, based in Berkeley, CA, is developing biotechnology-based solutions for making chemicals from renewable materials instead of petroleum, reducing the environmental footprint while increasing profitability of production. ZymoChem’s proprietary microbes are engineered to use feedstocks like sugars for producing chemicals that go into everyday products such as plastics, fragrances, and fabrics. The company’s novel designs enable their engineered microbes to achieve nearly 100 percent efficiency in converting sugar into chemicals, while eliminating wasteful production of harmful emissions.

“We want the next ski jacket you buy, or the carpet in your home to be made from sugar not oil,” said Harshal Chokhawala, Co-founder and CEO of ZymoChem. “Some of the world’s most widely-used chemicals are produced using toxic and unsustainable processes. For example, creating adipic acid—a compound used in the production of a wide array of consumer goods including carpets, jackets, automotive plastics, and food packaging—requires using petroleum and toxic chemicals, and releases powerful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Because of the efficiency of ZymoChem’s technology, companies can produce many common chemicals including adipic acid through microbial fermentation, which is more sustainable and can easily become cost-competitive to traditional production methods, even at today’s low oil prices.”

Operating out of the Thiel Foundation as a seed-stage radical science fund, Breakout Labs has invested in 30 companies at the forefront of biotechnology, data and materials science, and advanced energy solutions. The fund invests up to $350,000 in cutting-edge scientific companies to achieve specific milestones during the two year period program. Breakout Labs portfolio companies receive entrepreneurial guidance and connections within an extensive network of scientific and business experts to help them on their path to commercialization.

To date, portfolio companies have raised more than 14 times the amount of seed capital invested in the program by the Thiel Foundation; seven companies have gone on to raise Series A and two have closed Series B rounds.

The entire portfolio of Breakout Labs companies can be viewed at

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Business Wire

Last updated on: 11/10/2016

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