Biotech entrepreneurs pitch ideas

Dr Ruan Venter from MyBiome.

Several start-ups took part in a BioCiTi and OneBio incubation programme – giving a glimpse into the future of the biotechnology sector.

Nine of South Africa and Zimbabwe’s top early-stage biotech entrepreneurs were part of an intense six-month development training programme at the Cape Innovation and Technology’s Woodstock Bandwidth Barn, which ended with a demo day on Thursday August 22.

Woodstock-based start-up Gourmet Grub, who wants to redefine the way people think of insects as an alternative food source and, specifically, an alternative dairy product, was one of the teams who took part.

During the demo day, partners Leah Bessa and Jean Louwrens introduced their new product, Entomilk, a dairy alternative made from insect larvae.

Mr Louwrens said EntoMilk served as a dairy alternative, which could be used in a variety of products from cheese to ice cream.

“It is the first of its kind and stands to support global food security while reducing the human impact on the environment. This new age, yet ancient food ingredient will serve as one of many solutions to the global problems we experience today, starting with an industry under pressure,” he said.

After Ms Bessa completed her Master’s degree in Food Science, studying insects as a alternative source of protein, she joined forces with Mr Louwrens to explore various avenues of introducing insects into the market. “After buying mealworms and farming them ourselves, to making cricket bars in the kitchen of Jean’s tiny town apartment and eventually settling on black soldier fly larvae as an economically viable option, Gourmet Grubb was born,” she said.

Ms Bessa said the purpose of Gourmet Grubb was to redefine the way people thought about eating insects. .

Other local start-ups included, My Blueprint, by Amanda and Trevor Brewer who seek to provide access to quality, safe, affordable healthcare across Africa by providing individualised treatment and formulations of medicine through a mobile app.

Originally trained as a pharmacist, Ms Brewer developed a strong foundation in healthcare industry, having worked in all healthcare sectors. She became frustrated at the lack of paediatric dosage forms for medicines to treat disease such as HIV. She found that many elderly, frail patients were on a cocktail of medicines that had to be taken at different times of the day, with them often forgetting to take their tablets.

Ms Brewer said My Blueprint would help to resolve several issues through the app, which would track the medication you are using, your dosages and its effects and provide reports to you and your doctor.

Mr Brewer developed a passion for the provision of low-cost high quality healthcare through his MBA, where he performed research into low-cost healthcare business models, resulting in the development of a business and two clinics providing services in Gauteng.

Dr Ruan Venter from MyBiome said his idea would disrupt the field of probiotics. As a doctor, he realised that there needed to be a better approach to preventing the disruption of the gut microbiome after the use of antibiotics.

“A better way had to be found and MyBiome was started. The probiotics doctors are prescribing are not helping but in fact delaying gut recovery” he said.

MyBiome is a biotechnology company focused on creating microbiome derived treatments for depression, obesity and cancer by providing two unique services. Dr Venter said they were the first company to have a commercially available microbiome biobank as well as the first company to do Autologous Encapsulated Microbiome Transplants (AMT) around the use of antibiotics.

“When you are on antibiotics, you will provide our company with a stool sample and we produce a capsule containing your microbiome. Every time you kill your biotic friends, you can put 100% of it back into your system,” he said.