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July 2016

Harmful Chemicals in the Press

It has been a good couple of weeks for press coverage of harmful chemicals:

A closer look at Glyphosate

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the popular herbicide Roundup, has been subject of increasing scrutiny as governments around the world respond to the World Health Organization’s classification of Glyphosate as a “probably human carcinogen (IARC-Group 2A)”. In July the EU released limits and guidelines for the use of glyphosate, while also putting off a final ruling on until 2017. The US EPA has sent similar mixed signals with their release and then retraction of a ruling on glyphosate earlier this year. While the national and international bodies continue their review of Glyphosate, many municipalities are taking action. Examples include recent announcements from Auckland, New Zealand and a ban on glyphosate and other herbicides in city parks in Irvine, California.

In the face of uncertainty many companies are investing in the development of alternative herbicides. One area of research and innovation has been the development of microbial based approaches to weed control. Some of the active new companies commercializing microbial products for weed control include Marrone Bio, BioConsortia, NewLeaf Symbiotics, and Indigo Agriculture.

In 2014, the market for microbial based fertilizers and pesticides was approximately $1.8 billion, while the total market for traditional fertilizers and pesticides was approximately $240 billion (According to the BioAg Alliance). We expect that the microbial based approaches to continue expanding their market share in response to continued demand for alternatives to traditional agriculture chemicals.

Financings, Funds, and Opportunities

Citrine Informatics, a big data and machine learning startup focused on helping large companies design better and safer chemicals and materials, closed a 8.76 M Series A. Investors included XSeed Capital, Ulu Ventures, Prelude Ventures, Morado Venture Partners, AME Cloud Ventures, Data Collective, David Chao, and Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors.

Bolt Threads, a company making synthetic spider silk threads, recently raised a 50 M Series C lead by Formation 8, Innovation Endeavors and Nan Fung. Applications for the new biobased material include performance textiles and apparel.

Terramera, a company that produces neem oil based alternatives to conventional chemical pesticides and fertilizers, has raised an undisclosed amount of venture funding from Seed 2 Growth Ventures; ACA Investments, a unit of Sumitomo Corp.; Bold Capital Partners, Renewal Funds and Maumee Ventures.

Capricorn Venture Partners, a venture fund based in Belgium mentions green chemistry as an area of focus for their latest cleantech fund., the innovation platform founded by NASA, USAID, the Department of State, and NIKE is preparing to launch a chemistry focused open challenge seeking innovations that advance data driven chemistry.

Elsevier Foundation Sustainable Chemistry Challenge is now accepting applications for the 2017 competition. The challenge is open to individuals or nonprofit organizations around the world for projects in any field of Green and Sustainable Chemistry that are applicable in developing countries. The winning project will receive EUR 50,000.

Final Notes

  • New York Times highlighting green chemistry innovations that eliminate the need for solvents in chemical reactions

  • A story in the Washington Post describing ongoing research at Mount Sinai using baby teeth to track children’s exposure to harmful chemicals.

  • Bloomberg reports on DuPont/Chemours continuing legal troubles over contamination and health issues associated with the production of long chain perfluorinated surfactants.

  • Why you may be ingesting phthalates in with your burger.


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