Chemical manufacturing is undergoing a period of transition, from an era focused on petrochemical-derived chemical synthesis and plant extraction to one which leverages the power of biotechnology and biomanufacturing. Manus Bio was founded in 2011 with the mission of developing an economical and sustainable biomanufacturing platform, particularly for accessing rare and complex natural ingredients.
The concept behind Manus Bio emerged when a group of biochemical engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recognized a glaring gap which exists in the sustainable sourcing of many chemicals and ingredients used in our daily lives, from clothing and cosmetics to our medicines and food. Despite hundreds of years of innovation and progress in product development, ingredients continue to be sourced primarily from three main activities – mining, plant cultivation, and animal husbandry – none of which offer sustainable or environmentally-responsible solutions to the issue of chemical procurement. Fortunately, this realization came at a time of unprecedented scientific advances in biology, with many of the breakthroughs occurring in Cambridge, MA itself. Together, the rapid commoditization of genome sequencing and gene synthesis and the growing understanding of cellular function offered by systems biology made the otherwise daunting task of engineering biology much more tractable.
This was exactly the type of work pioneered in the laboratory of Dr. Greg Stephanopoulos, William H. Dow Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and founding father of the field of metabolic engineering, whose central tenets provide the framework by which to engineer cellular systems for a variety of novel applications. There, Dr. Aji Parayil (Chief Executive Officer, Manus Bio), an organic chemist turned bioengineer, sought to unlock the potential of microorganisms to produce complex natural products normally found in small quantities in plants and higher organisms. “Plants are the most amazing chemists,” thought Dr. Parayil. “They produce hundreds of thousands of compounds in a very energy and resource efficient way with applications which impact almost every aspect of our lives. How do we enable economical and easy access to these chemicals?”
By taking a multi-disciplinary approach which combined metabolic engineering, protein engineering, and traditional chemistry principles, Dr. Parayil quickly achieved successes which had eluded the rest of the scientific community. Shortly thereafter, he tapped former MIT labmate Dr. Christine Santos (Chief Technology Officer, Manus Bio) and several other MIT classmates, to build a talented team of scientists and engineers and translate these early findings into a robust engineering platform which now serves as Manus Bio’s core technology.
Today, Manus Bio has deployed a mature end-to-end commercial platform for the discovery and economical biomanufacturing of a variety of complex natural products, thus truly making nature more accessible, affordable and sustainable.