Lean LaunchPad for Synthetic Biology Alumni: Where are they now? Part 2

  • Posted on 25 July, 2016

Gabriella Santosa and Florence Gschwend were awarded the prestigious 2016 Althea Prize

In the latest of our occasional series, we look at past participants of the Lean LaunchPad for Synthetic Biology to find out what they took from the programme and what they are doing now.

Admission to the Lean Launchpad for Synthetic Biology is by teams and not individuals; a minimum of 3-individuals constitutes a team. Selection is based on the team not necessarily the idea. We are typically looking for interdisciplinary teams, with a passion for innovation. The best teams are always a diverse mix of people and skills.

Although a recent study reported that more women than ever before are starting their own companies, up 10% in the past 2 years (male equivalent up 3.3%), the gender gap in entrepreneurship is undeniable. The same study revealed that men are twice as likely as women to start a business in the UK. These numbers are also reflected in the 2-to-1 male:female distribution across the SynbiCITE entrepreneurial programmes.

Bucking this trend, Lean LaunchPad alums Gabriella Santosa of CustoMem and Florence Gschwend of ionoSolv received recognition for innovation by being awarded the prestigious 2016 Althea Prize. This annual award honours innovations by promising female students in STEM at Imperial College.

ionoSolv, led by Agnieszka Brandt-Talbot and Florence Gschwend, entered the Lean LaunchPad programme with a highly validated proprietary technology pre-treating lingocellulosic biomass to generate fermentation feedstocks, but lacked customers and a clear offering. Post Lean LaunchPad, ionoSolv is now rebranded as Chrysalis Technologies and “pursing … an idea we generated while participating in the LLP, “ said Agnieszka Brandt-Talbot, and “produce(ing) cellulosic glucose at 20% lower cost than other technologies”

Another of the successful Lean LaunchPad teams was Bento Bioworks; led by co-founder Bethan Wolfenden, Bento took part in the 10-week programme in autumn 2015. Entering the programme they already had prototypes and were looking for customers. The Lean LaunchPad programme uses evidence-based customer discovery and feedback to rapidly iterate a product or concept to build or design a product someone would actually buy. Four months following the Lean LaunchPad programme, Bento went on to receive 100% of their funding target on Kickstarter in under 36 hours, Bethan generously acknowledged “the huge amount of support we have received from SynbiCITE with… training… I'd like to say a massive thank you”

The entrepreneurial programme the Lean Launchpad for Synthetic Biology returns to London this autumn for its second year; this event brings together academic scientists and would-be entrepreneurs working in synthetic biology looking to commercialize their ideas and exposes them to the rigors of the market place.

If you are interested in taking part, or want more information on the Lean LaunchPad for Synthetic Biology taking place at Imperial College later this year, please contact Stephen Chambers at