GreenLight Biosciences closes $102M Series D funding to expand production of its RNA products for agricultural and life sciences applications
GreenLight Biosciences, a Medford, MA-based biotech startup focused on sustainable production of chemicals and fuels, today announced it has raised $102 million in Series D funding to rapidly expand production of its RNA products for agricultural and life sciences applications, including an expansion into new RNA-based therapies. The oversubscribed round was led by Morningside Ventures, with participation from new and existing top-tier investors including the agriculture venture firm, S2G Ventures, Cormorant Asset Management, Continental Grain Company, Fall Line Capital, Tao Capital Partners, Baird Capital, MLS Capital Fund II, Lewis and Clark AgriFood, and Lupa Systems.
The investment comes on the heels of a $17 million special purpose round in May 2020 to accelerate large-scale manufacturing of future COVID-19 vaccines using the company’s proprietary messenger RNA (mRNA) production technology. The new funding will drive the expansion of GreenLight’s human health efforts into new platforms like RNA-based therapeutics. With the company’s first biopesticide expected to launch in 2022, the new funding will also accelerate development and commercialization of GreenLight’s pipeline of safe and effective products for more sustainable crop production.
Founded in 2009 by Andrey Zarur, James Swartz, and Marta Ortega-Valle, GreenLight Biosciences develops sustainable solutions to address some of the biggest issues facing our planet today, from public health crises to environmentally-friendly food production for a growing population. The company’s RNA-based vaccines offer tremendous potential to address pandemics like COVID-19, because of shorter preclinical development times compared to traditional vaccines. Its pipeline of RNA-based agricultural products will help farmers create greener, cleaner crops by precisely targeting a specific pest with non-toxic biocontrols, and without harming beneficial insects or leaving residues in the soil or water.
“GreenLight Biosciences’ manufacturing technology can address critical pain points for RNA supply in both agriculture and human health,” said Jason Dinges of Morningside Ventures. “RNA-based products represent an opportunity for innovation in both human therapeutics as well as safe, environmentally-friendly crop protection, and we are excited to partner with GreenLight’s expert team to deliver them at scale to patients and farmers alike.”
RNA is a natural molecule that controls the biological processes in all living things. While RNA-based products for plant and life sciences are not a new invention, they haven’t been commercially viable until now. GreenLight’s breakthrough comes from cracking the code for rapid and affordable RNA production at scale. For example, the cost of RNA for the development of agricultural biocontrols has been as high as $100 – $10,000 per gram. GreenLight’s patented, cell-free bioprocessing platform can produce targeted RNA products at a significantly lower cost that enables commercialization.
“GreenLight Biosciences is developing revolutionary new solutions that work with nature, not against it,” said Matt Walker, Managing Director at S2G Ventures. “We are excited to continue to support this excellent team’s growth as they bring their pipeline of safe, sustainable products that actually work to farmers who need them and expand their impact into new industries.”
Similarly in life sciences, there is significant opportunity to improve patient care for diseases where current solutions are limited or ineffective. mRNA therapies promise a new avenue for the development of gene and antibody therapies in particular. There is also limited existing capacity to produce RNA-based vaccines and gene therapies at the quantities required to respond to public health needs. GreenLight’s new funding will help build the scalable biomanufacturing capacity to quickly address market need, including a commercially available mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine.
“GreenLight was born from a passion to make our world more sustainable and more equitable,” said Andrey Zarur, GreenLight’s co-founder and CEO. “We are honored to draw the support of this notable group of new and existing investors as we drive forward our dual mission to make food production more robust and environmentally respectful; and our health solutions applicable to every member of the human race. We remain steadfast in our commitment to provide bio-based solutions for plant health, human health and animal health, and to make those solutions affordable and accessible.”
“We’re delighted to support GreenLight Biosciences’ efforts to build a unique natural platform in human health and agriculture. We look forward to working with this impressive team, helping them deploy scientifically rigorous solutions in regions across the world,” said Frederic Michel, Partner at Lupa Systems.