Getting Wild with Microbes: The Fun and Fascinating World of Gene Editing

By: Collaborative Team

In the world of biotechnology, where groundbreaking innovations are constantly redefining our understanding of life, a new star has emerged: Wild Microbes, a Shared Future Fund portfolio company.

This ambitious team, which recently secured $3.3M in pre-seed funding, aims to revolutionize the field of gene editing using wild microbes. Inspired by the potential of this transformative technology, Wild Microbes is poised to lead us into a future where sustainable solutions are within our grasp.

Founded by Tim Wannier (CEO) and Ben Kramer (COO) in May 2022, Wild Microbes stands at the forefront of a new era in gene editing, where the potential of wild microorganisms is harnessed to tackle some of our greatest challenges. By responsibly unlocking the power of nature through precise genetic modifications, Wild Microbes offers a sustainable path forward in agriculture, sustainable materials manufacturing, carbon sequestration, and beyond.

Nature is a treasure trove of microbial diversity, with more than 1 Trillion estimated species that hold untapped potential for solving some of humanity’s most pressing challenges. Wild Microbes understands the power hidden within these microorganisms, utilizing cutting-edge gene editing techniques to unlock their remarkable capabilities. By precisely modifying the genetic material of microbial strains that the team isolates from far-flung environments, scientists at Wild Microbes are able to enhance these microbes’ native capabilities, or super-powers, and in doing so create bespoke solutions for challenging problems.

Gene editing has rapidly emerged as a powerful tool, enabling us to manipulate the building blocks of life with unprecedented precision. Traditional genetic engineering has often relied on modifying a few pet organisms with foreign genes, creating heavily modified microorganisms, and leaving much of the microbial universe underutilized. Wild Microbes, however, is working with naturally occurring microorganisms, and using precision engineering they can modify these microbes to fit them to purpose much more quickly and without extensive modification. This approach offers a cheaper, faster, and more ecologically aware alternative.

The primary target that Wild Microbes has set its sights on is chemicals and materials manufacturing, an industry that faces numerous challenges, including a large carbon footprint, pollutive manufacturing processes, and problematic health effects for certain classes of materials from microplastics in our water sources to poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that pervade even our bloodstreams. By harnessing the power of gene editing, Wild Microbes seeks to develop natural biological solutions that minimize the reliance on harmful chemicals in industries from agricultural pesticides and fertilizers to consumer goods manufacturing. For example, certain promising bio-based materials that have been expensive to manufacture by traditional means, could be made economically feasible with the aid of bespoke wild microbial solutions.

Another aspect of Wild Microbes’ work lies in mitigating climate change. Microbes play a crucial role in numerous natural processes, including carbon cycling and nitrogen fixation. By editing the genes of these microorganisms, Wild Microbes aims to take advantage of these native microbial superpowers, developing these strains into robust platform hosts capable of more effective carbon utilization and increased sequestration, helping to mitigate global greenhouse gas emissions. This groundbreaking approach could contribute significantly to combating climate change and building a more sustainable future.

While the potential benefits of gene editing are immense, Wild Microbes recognizes the importance of proceeding with caution. The company operates under strict ethical guidelines, ensuring responsible and safe practices at every step. Stringent risk assessments, rigorous testing protocols, and adherence to regulatory frameworks are integral parts of their scientific process. By striking a delicate balance between innovation and responsibility, Wild Microbes aims to inspire confidence and foster trust in their groundbreaking work.

With their recent funding round, they are poised to make significant strides in transforming our world for the better. As we eagerly anticipate their next breakthrough, it is evident that Wild Microbes embodies the spirit of innovation and responsible science necessary for shaping a sustainable future. Learn more about Wild Microbes in Ag Funder Network and New Scientist.

Image credit: Midjourney