Alumni innovation in the news

Ripple milk

Ripple Foods, which makes alternative dairy products from peas, was cofounded by Adam Lowry and Neil Renninger (Ph.D ’01, ChemE)

March 13, 2019

For immediate release
Berkeley, CA

Graduates of the College’s Chemistry and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering departments are making news as they become market innovators with their recent startups and products. News stories about Lygos, Chemistry and Ripple look at the latest chemistry innovations and funding for these companies. 

Lygos awarded three innovation research grants

AP News

Lygos, Inc., a full-stack producer of specialty chemicals that deliver high-value performance without the environmental toxicity, today announced three innovation research grants totaling $750,000 of non-equity funding to support advanced research and development. These funds have been awarded through separate grants from the United States Department of Energy (DOE), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

“The current petrochemical processes used to manufacture specialty chemicals like malonic, glycolic and glyceric acids, are not only expensive but they also have significant health, safety and environmental concerns,” said Jeffrey Dietrich (PhD '11, ChemE), Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Lygos. “At Lygos, we are focusing our effort on providing sustainable, cost-competitive biological solutions that address some of these fundamental inefficiencies in current petrochemical manufacturing processes.”

Founded in 2010 by College of Chemistry alumni Eric Steen (Ph.D '10, ChemE) and Jeffrey Dietrich, the company is providing biotechnology solutions for renewable chemical challenges. They are researching engineering microbes to convert sugars into industrial chemicals, targeting where biological production is a cost-advantage over petrochemical production.

Cannibis startup Chemistry Life in Color closes $6M Series A round

New cannabis ventures

Newly realized financing will be used to fund Chemistry’s continued expansion into the California market with its line of full-spectrum vape cartridges, high CBD tinctures and THCa crystallines, and for further investment into scaling its proprietary extraction and refinement techniques pioneered by founder and Chief Executive Officer, Paul Roethle, (PhD. ’08, Chem)

Roethle spent years working inside the biopharmaceutical industry on major pharmaceutical medications and is now applying his background and experience as an organic chemist to advancing the cannabis industry. Chemistry’s methods are unique in an industry dominated by compressed flammable gas, CO2 and ethanol extraction feeding wiped film distillation. The company doesn’t employ any of those techniques.

Roethle stated,“ Chemistry’s methods are well-controlled and under mild conditions, allowing us to produce an extract that retains a complete spectrum of the biomolecular goodness responsible for a strain’s entourage effect. These include not only cannabinoids and terpenes, but also flavonoids and other minor molecules that all work in harmony once vaporized or ingested to produce a wide range of different end-user experiences and benefits.”

Oakland-based Chemistry is a licensed cannabis manufacturer that produces a robust line of full-spectrum vape cartridges, high CBD tinctures and THCa crystallines.

The cofounders of Ripple share why plant-based foods are their passion

Forbes on line

Ripple Foods, which makes alternative dairy products from peas, was cofounded by Adam Lowry, who previously cofounded Method, a line of eco cleaning products, and Neil Renninger (Ph.D ’01, ChemE), who previously cofounded Amyris, a renewable products company. The two already had built companies that disrupted their industries by making products that benefit people and the planet. So, it is no surprise that when they took on the dairy industry, they met with tremendous success. Ripple recently raised $65 million in a Series C round of venture capital funding, bringing its total funding to $108.6 million.

Knowing that both dairy and almond milks are sustainable and nutritional nightmares, Lowry and Renninger wanted to create a plant-based alternative that is better for you and the environment. Ripptein is the cleanest plant protein on earth and is used to make Ripple’s milk, half-n-half, and Greek yogurt alternatives. All Ripple Foods products are natural, vegan, lactose-free, soy-free, nut-free, and gluten-free, as well as a good source of calcium and Vitamin D. They’re also bottled in 100% post-consumer recycled plastic.

Renninger stated, “I helped to start and run Ripple Foods, which makes plant-based foods delicious. We do this by taking a rigorous scientific approach to their development in order to best mimic their animal-derived counterparts. Our food system represents 30+% of the carbon emissions of the planet, worldwide. It’s an enormous problem requiring some very significant solutions, but “Big Food” only spends 1% of revenue on R&D. Most of that is spent on developing new ways of packaging and delivering products to consumers rather than developing new products, and an infinitesimal amount is spent on making our food system more sustainable. We’re showing the industry that investment in R&D can lead to unique solutions that drive significant financial return while also providing products that are better for the planet.”

Plant based milk alternatives are gaining immense popularity across the globe mainly attributed to a growing trend towards clean label products. Today consumers worldwide are demanding products that are organic and at the same time healthy. Pea milk is a recent innovation in the dairy industry wherein manufacturers are looking for inexpensive solutions to fulfill the growing demand for protein across the globe. Pea milk is extracted from yellow peas and constitute the same amount of protein as delivered by cow milk and way more than that present in almond milk.