CustoMem wins £100K 1st Prize in Bio-start competition

  • Posted on 12 July, 2017

SynbiCITE and Rainbow Seed Fund congratulate CustoMem as winners of the 1st Prize in the Bio-start competition for companies using engineering biology to solve significant global problems. The winning team, along with other award recipients, was chosen last night after a final pitch and judging session chaired by Sir Richard Sykes, former Chairman of GlaxoSmithKline.

As the winning team, CustoMem will receive a £100k equity-free cash award, sponsored by SynbiCITE and Rainbow Seed Fund.

Lack of access to clean water is predicted to affect 47% of the world’s population by 2030. CustoMem tackles this problem by targeted capture of micro-pollutants from industrial wastewater, using novel biomaterials produced with engineered cellulose-producing bacteria. These micropollutants are persistent and energy intensive to remove with current technology. The captured micro-pollutants are then repurposed into high-value products. CustoMem’s solutions are simple, cost competitive, plug-and-play and low maintenance, providing peace of mind to customers as they fulfil sustainability commitments and regulations.

‘Last night’s event was a testament to the innovation and ongoing growth of the synthetic biology sector, and we are delighted to recognise the achievements of all the winning teams through these awards’ said Dr Stephen Chambers, CEO, SynbiCITE. ‘The success of the first Bio-start competition illustrates the wealth of promising start-ups with potentially sector-changing innovations, and we look forward to welcoming competitors for next year’s event. I would also like to thank all our sponsors, mentors and judges, without whom this competition would not have been possible.’

The two other Growth Awards were won by:

Bio-start is an annual competition designed to commercialise the engineering of biology, including a 10-week accelerator programme aiming to help start-ups forge ahead in commercialising their technology.

Oliver Sexton, Investment Director at Rainbow Seed Fund, commented: ‘All five finalists demonstrate that engineering biology is delivering compelling solutions to global challenges. The three winning companies especially impressed the judges with their scalable ideas and highly capable teams delivering complex technology.’


Notes for Editors

About SynbiCITE

SynbiCITE is a pioneering Innovation and Knowledge Centre (IKC) dedicated to promoting the adoption and use of synthetic biology by industry. SynbiCITE and partners across the UK and globally are committed to developing this technology through responsible innovation which encompasses ethical, societal and environmental considerations. SynbiCITE is focused at Imperial College London and is - with partners from industry, academia and organisations that help develop business growth - accelerating the commercialisation of world-class science and the emerging technologies encompassed by synthetic biology into new products, tools, processes and services. SynbiCITE is growing UK industry in the sector and improving synthetic biology innovation, using industry to achieve significant economic impact, generate wealth for the companies, generate skilled workers and create jobs.

About Rainbow Seed Fund
The Rainbow Seed Fund is an early-stage venture capital fund dedicated to kick-starting technology companies from great science emerging from the National Research & Innovation Campuses. The Fund is backed by nine UK publicly-funded research organisations including STFC, BBSRC, Dstl and NERC and the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The Fund, whose portfolio comprises more than 30 companies, holds investments in some of the UK’s most innovative early-stage companies, underpinning the Government's Industrial Strategy. The Fund validates, invests and grows leading UK science companies. It has successfully leveraged from the private sector more than 20 times its own investment and created more than 550 high-value technology jobs.

In 2013, Rainbow announced a new £10M fund to commercialise synthetic biology technologies that support UK science strengths and business capabilities and in which Britain could be a world leader.

The Rainbow Seed Fund is managed by Midven, an established venture capital firm with a successful track record of investing in small and medium-sized enterprises. For more information, please visit