A new way of producing bioplastics at half costs, the promise to soon leave behind the ‘islands of plastic’ that suffocate the seas, the horizon of concretely accelerating the ecological transition. It is the green industrial revolution ‘working progress’ of FabricNano, the English startup founded by the very young Grant Aarons, 30 years old American engineer and CEO of the company, and Ferdinando Randisi, 32 years old Italian physicist and Cto of the startup. The invention grounded by Randisi and Aarons is a revolution in which many investors already believe and is based on a complex technological process of cell-free bioproduction in which enzymes are immobilized on a DNA tissue. For this invention, the startup born in London has just won a $ 12.5 million Series A funding round led by the Atomico fund, with the participation of investors Backed, Hoxton Ventures and Entrepreneur First. In this round, leading international business angels including Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, United Nations sustainability ambassador Emma Watson, actress Emma Watson and its ‘bioplastics revolution’ believed in and funded FabricNano and its ‘bioplastics revolution’ former Bayer CEO Alexander Moscho. “Our industrial technology has shown advantages both from an environmental and an economic point of view and can be applied to many products that today derive from the petrochemical sector” underlines the Italian physicist Ferdinando Randisi, Co-founder and Cto of FabricNano, reached by telephone in London from Adnkronos. This technology, he warns, “may also open the door to large-scale production of new biomaterials and also allow the production of new drugs or ‘pharmaceutical ingredients’ at lower costs.” “In short, our invention would seem to respond to the goal of the much-claimed ecological transition”, the researcher says. Funds raised in this round with Atomico, which ended last week, will serve FabricNano to accelerate the development of FabricFlow technology that offers a scalable alternative to petroleum-based processes in the production of synthetic materials such as plastics and chemicals. Randisi clarifies that “the prospect of our technological process is to bring the cost of bioplastics from the current $ 3 per kilo to $ 1-1.5 per kilo and to reach products for the market in just over a year”. Throughout 2021, assures the Italian physicist, “we will focus on the efficiency and costs of our FabricFlow technology”. “We are the first in the world to immobilize enzymes on DNA in an industrial process and with nanometric precision” underlines Randisi, thus explaining the key technology that came out of the startup’s laboratories. The Italian scientist-entrepreneur argues that “plastics of biological origin, biodegradable, are already a reality and are produced through fermentation by specialized microorganisms (the same process from which we have beer or wine) and with a much lower environmental impact than to petroleum-derived plastics. So if we replaced petroleum-derived plastics with bioplastic in all the products we use today, this pollution would become a problem of the past. ” However, the Italian physicist observes that “unfortunately, in most cases, bioplastics are unable to replace the polluting plastics derived from petroleum precisely because of their prohibitive cost: bio plastic costs about double: 2-3 dollars per kilo against 1 -1.5 dollars per kilo of the ‘traditional’ one. A prohibitive cost for many common products such as cutlery or plastic packaging “. “With our production process, on the other hand – Randisi points out – chemical companies such as Versalis, RadiciGroup, Basf or Solvay could produce bioplastics starting from raw glycerin: today it is not done and we have paved the way”. In addition, crude glycerin “is produced in abundance as a waste material from the biodiesel production process. For example, so much glycerin is produced in Brazil that they often have to burn it to get rid of it.” Technical skills, private capital, a state that helps companies and optimism is the poker of aces that the young Italian physicist has seen on the table in Great Britain. Randisi, who went to Oxford for a doctorate in 2013, is now at the pinnacle of an industrial revolution that promises a real change of direction to the ecological transition. “To develop our production process for bioplastics, we won a grant from the British government in 2020 for around 400,000 pounds and the same technology can be applied to the most disparate production processes”. Therefore a quick, focused and wide spectrum public investment. “For example – Randisi clarifies – pharmaceutical companies such as Angelini, Sandoz, Menarini, AstraZeneca, Novartis often identify enzymes for the production of a particular drug, or pharmaceutical ingredient, but their use is too expensive to be put into production”. “With our technology, these processes can instead become competitive on the market, thus increasing the availability of medicines within everyone’s reach” emphasizes Randisi. “I’m not a ‘brain on the run’ from Italy but – the Roman physicist clarifies – I have freely chosen to go to GB to ‘play in Serie A’ and ‘with Serie A players'”. “Italy – he comments – has nothing to envy to the United Kingdom with respect to technical skills, indeed our industrial fabric is even more developed”. Of course, he admits, “startup investors are few in Italy but private capital can be attracted from abroad. What is lacking in our country is real public support for businesses”. And in view of the governance of the Italian PNRR, Randisi raises the possibility that the Draghi government, with funds from the Next Generation Eu, will and will be able to “implement something similar to the government support enjoyed by British companies: a step that would greatly help new companies like mine “. Companies “small but capable of becoming very large and very soon” he indicates. The Roman physicist thinks of public support such as “tax credits for private research, non-repayable financing calls” but also of “streamlined, reactive and economic bureaucracy”, and above all of “very few barriers to businesses”. It is not enough. Randisi also suggests to “carefully monitor the industrial ‘fabric’ generated to amplify the programs that work, close those that are lacking and start new projects that can improve the country system more and more”. And “even if it may seem like a trite affirmation”, there is “one last aspect of fundamental importance” that according to the Co-founder of FabricNano is missing in Italy: “Encouraging the optimism and the desire to succeed that we now have tragically lacking “. (by Andreana d’Aquino)
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