citybiz+ TEDCO-backed Biotech Firm Phycin Raises $200K to Advance Algae Development

Phycin, which has used algae to develop a groundbreaking eye therapy, has raised $200,000 in a seed round, according to a recent listing on Crunchbase. The Frederick, Md., startup last year won a $400,000 award from the Maryland Stem Cell Research Commission, an independent unit within TEDCO, the Maryland Technology Development Corp.

Founded in 2013 by Chinese Jun Wang, Phycin has built a green algae platform to derive so-called “growth factors” — proteins that stimulate cell growth and repair tissues. Wang earned a Ph.D. in plant physiology and biochemistry from China’s Lanzhou University. He was previously associate director at Intrexon Corp.

Tien Wong on Board

Phycin’s top leadership includes Tien Wong, founder and host of The Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Forum. He also runs the Washington, D.C.-based investment advisory firm Opus8. Another prominent member of Phycin’s management team is Dr. Derese Getnet, a post-doctoral fellow at the Institute of Genetic Medicine in Johns Hopkins University. He received his Ph.D. in immunology and molecular biology.

The company, which is located at the Frederick Innovative Technology Center, was among startups that presented at Maryland’s Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Technology Showcase in Columbia in April.

“We are extremely grateful to MSCRF, TEDCO, and FITCI for their support, including our advisors on FITCI’s Strategic Growth & Advisory Board, especially Dr. Jon Rowley of RoosterBio,” Wang said last year, after Phycin received a grant. “This grant represents a significant milestone in our journey. Algae-based growth factors hold immense potential for revolutionizing industry and addressing some pressing challenges of quality and sustainability.”

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‘Cleanest, Most Affordable’
Phycin’s green algae-based platform is claimed to be the cleanest and most affordable endotoxin. Its growth factors are derived from Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, a single-celled eukaryotic algae that are free of pathogen risks. One of Phycin’s biggest advances has been in lowering cost, making use of growth factors viable in several industries. Some years ago, growth factors could cost over one million dollars per gram.

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Growth factors have a wide range of applications. Phycin’s early breakthrough has been in eye-care. It has developed growth factors that can be used to treat corneal damage arising from a variety of incidents, including battlefield action. Its technology enables cost-effective production of “human wildtype and enhanced bFGF” — referred to as ebFGF, “offering exceptional commercial potential for stem cell and tissue engineering.”

So-called “clean meat” — real meat grown from cells outside of an animal — is another potential application of growth factors. Phycin claims its platform is “by far the safest, most versatile, and most cost-effective solution” to produce clean meat at scale. The company’s technology can also produce species-specific growth factors that can be used in the seafood industry. Phycin is also working on regenerative therapies for wound care.