Website Link (Article by Michael Wolf)
Last week, Kingdom Supercultures, a company that assembles new novel combinations of naturally-occurring microbes into a new class of ingredients called supercultures, announced a $25 million funding round. The new funding round comes after a $3.5 million round the company raised in 2020.
Unlike many computational biology startups that have emerged in recent years, Kingdom doesn’t use precision fermentation technology or genetic engineering to build its new ingredient building blocks. Instead, the company is applying artificial intelligence and statistical analysis to analyze a massive database of existing cultures to discover new and interesting potential microbial combinations that provide new functionality, flavors, and more.
“What we’re building is really trying to recapitulate what we already find in nature,” said Ravi Sheth, who sat down for the latest episode of The Spoon podcast with cofounder Kendall Dabaghi.
To do that, Kingdom has assembled what the company claims is the world’s largest biobank of cultures in the world. The goal, according to Sheth, is to create a much faster path to discovery than traditional microbiology.
“It’s not dissimilar from a farmer cultivating different crops and choosing the best ones and putting them in the right places in the field and growing them and delivering them,” said Sheth. “In a very similar manner, we’re looking to nature embracing and learning from everything that natural biology has to offer. And we’re applying cutting edge kind of approaches in science and technology and computation, to then select them intentionally, really accelerate this process that we’ve already been able to do as a society.”
In a way, the company’s fusion of advanced computational techniques with culture development is largely a product of the two founders’ backgrounds. Dabaghi co-founded a cybersecurity firm in the early 2010s which used advanced computational technology to scan websites for security vulnerabilities. Sheth was on a more traditional microbiology academic track, pursuing his Ph.D. with aspirations to become a professor. However, the two met at Columbia University and, after working on different research projects in the area of microbiome, started to discuss ways to work together.
“I knew that I very much wanted to try to build a skill set that was at the intersection of both computation and microbiology,” said Dabaghi. “Which I think is reflected also in Ravi’s background and the way that we think as a company, which is that we don’t want to repeat a lot of the manual microbiology approaches that have been that have been like the primary focus of industry for the last like 50 years, but instead to use all of these new advances in computation, artificial intelligence, different statistical approaches to basically then be able to scan through all these microbes in different potential combinations and a much more efficient manner.”
You can hear my full conversation with the cofounders of Kingdom Supercultures on the latest episode of The Spoon podcast. Link