(GeekWire Photo / James Thorne)
Alexandre Zanghellini can’t help but think about what makes up the world around him. Sitting in a conference room, Zanghellini considered the paint on the walls, the table, the window shades, the plastic chairs. It’s all oil.
“The entire world is made from oil. We just don’t realize it,” he said.
Zanghellini’s job, as the CEO of Seattle-based synthetic biology company Arzeda, is to reconsider how we make the basic molecules that go into anything and everything in the human world. And he has a bias for processes that use living organisms. “The tools of biology, proteins, are better at doing chemistry than chemists,” he said.
If Amazon is “the everything store,” Arzeda is a kind of everything lab. The startup uses synthetic biology to make industrial ingredients — molecules that could go into anything from fertilizer to nylon clothes — with a 35-person team made up of scientists and computer engineers.
What’s at stake is the future of how people make everyday items in a world that doesn’t depend on oil. The contrarian approach has helped Arzeda land chemical conglomerates and eco-friendly startups as customers. But it also faces competition from the chemical industry and better-funded synthetic …read more