Materially Better
Materially Better
Max Mundt: A Revolution of Matter, Insempra’s Biomaterials, and Self-improving Bio-iPhones

Max Mundt: A Revolution of Matter, Insempra’s Biomaterials, and Self-improving Bio-iPhones

Max Mundt is the VP of Business Development and employee #1 at Insempra and a part-time venture partner for Amino Collective.

We talk about

  • how his PhD in synbio lacked applications led to him building startups

  • why we are on the verge of a revolution of biology-powered matter

  • how it was just him and Jens Klein, (former CEO) of AMSilk, working on the Insempra (then model

  • how Insempra took a unusual path to commercializing biomaterials

  • Insempra’s beachhead markets

  • how he thinks about partnering with incumbents and startups

  • how the future of biomaterials could include self-improving bio-devices.

Max is a rare scientist-operator who thinks big about the future, and our conversation was a lot of fun!

You can check out the episode on Spotify (audio or video), Apple, Youtube and anywhere else you listen to podcasts.

This podcast is new, and leaving a rating, review, and/or comment REALLY helps more people find it. Many thanks if you can do that on on the podcast page on Spotify (app only) or Apple.

In launching this podcast, there are two other episodes available today. Melik Demirel, pioneer in squid-inspired self-healing biomaterials, and Antonio Castro Neto, the “godfather of graphene” on graphene-kevlar helmets and more.

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(03:51) PhD lacking application so he started building

(05:25) A revolution of matter, by biology

(13:25) Insempra’s novel approach to commercialize biomaterials

(22:44) Insempra's beachhead markets for lipids and proteins

(24:21) Partnering with incumbents and startups

(29:11) Being asset-light with contract manufacturing

(33:00) Venture advisory work at Amino Collective

(36:24) The future of biomaterials and self-improving bio-iPhones


Tsung: This is a conversation with Max Mundt. Max is the VP of Business Development for Insempra, a biomaterial startup that is "unleashing nature to grow matter with atomic precision". He's also a part-time partner for Amino Collective, a European seed stage bio venture fund. Earlier. Max was a biotech founder and freelance consultant and completed his PhD in synthetic biology at the Max Plank Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology.

Max is a rare scientist-operator who thinks big about the future, and our chat was a lot of fun!

In this conversation we cover why Max thinks biology would lead to a revolution of matter and self-improving bio-devices Insempra's novel approach to commercialize biomaterials, their beachhead markets, being asset light with contract manufacturers and his venture partner work at Amino Collective.

I'm Tsung Xu and this is Materially Better. This podcast is a series of conversations about new performance materials and their applications. I believe that new materials will play a big role in unlocking innovation and solving the problems that we face today and this podcast helps surface insights and learnings from the frontier.

And now here's Max Mundt.

What is Insempra and what is your role there?

Max: Insempra is a biomanufacturing company, almost two years old now. And it's a business to business product company. So what we wanna do is like really create physical matter that we then sell to other businesses that then sell into cosmetics markets, into apparel and also some niche markets in food and ??.

My role at Insempra is I'm basically the guy in charge of tech scouting. We have this approach that we don't want to reinvent the wheel simply because there is a whole lot of amazing technology already out there at a sufficiently high readiness level that we can pick it up scale it, find the right markets for it, have it produced, and then again, sell it b2b.

That means I'm having a lot of coffees with different professors, with people from early stage companies, with people from within business units of established companies. Trying to scope out if and how we could collaborate.

Tsung: There's a lot to dive into there and I'm really excited to do that. But first what led to your interest in synthetic biology and biomanufacturing?

Max: I was always curious about nature, really. Based on my family background, I think my parents and their friends are all somewhat hippies. Conservation was always a big thing. So as a small kid I wrote pamphlets with my brother and distributed them downtown to make people stop eating burgers from big burger chains because because that was an issue with deforestation to, to have all of the ?? on everything. So that was always something that I was interested in nature and how it can be protected. And I also have somewhat of a creative soul and was interested in music and acting and whatnot.

Somehow synthetic biology brought these two together. I had a very straightforward biology education. I would say what's called molecular biotechnology, so somewhat specialized, but it was somewhat dull. And then over time I found, hey, this is actually more like a programming language and something that we can work with and we can get creative.

We can start with the functionality that we have in mind, and then figure out how can we work with sales to turn that into an actual real world thing.

Tsung: What motivated you to build and help build startups.

PhD lacking applications, so he started building

Max: Yeah, I think there's no clear path as of now, really. During my PhD I, which I did at a Max Planck Institute, that is very much devoted to fundamental research, so the application is not really a thing that that they're after. But then here's synthetic biology, which is basically looking at biology, wearing an engineer's hat. So it's applied per se. And there was some discrepancy there. So I was a little bit frustrated with that, that there wasn't enough of a push towards application.

I started, co-founded a local startup community. Got interested into the startup space because another thing that I realized was there's no synbio industry that I could apply to after my PhD because it's just such a nascent field. That was what now? Five years ago or something? So it was obvious to me that I had to create that job myself, basically. So that's why I thought, okay, there's a certain necessity to build a company. And then I got into that space worked a little bit at VC funds, and then went through the Entrepreneur First Accelerator program, which is tailored towards the academics who never really built anything.

Through that I co-founded my first company and then slowly also did some pro bono work for different funds. Started to give feedback on pitch decks and so on.

Tsung: I want to talk about Insempra in a sec. But what excites you about the promise of biomaterials?

A revolution of matter, by biology

Max: Jason Kelly the Gingko CEO and Randy Rettberg the founder of the iGEM competition, which is for many students, the first touchpoint with synthetic biology say that there's going to be another industrial revolution and it will be a biological one and I believe that.

That will be a revolution of matter of the physical substance that surrounds us, which to some extent sounds super old school because, we have everything. All made through chemical processes and whatnot. So why would we even need something new, right? Over the past decade, we all got to understand that we simply cannot afford to create the physical world through these non-sustainable means, really.

And here comes biology, which is incredible. It's just so resource efficient there no endpoint, it just reuses everything and makes something from nothing really. And I think we are still away from that, but we can certainly learn from nature and that's what we're doing already.

Once we understand, let's say 5% of what's going on in nature, maybe we reach that point where we can also just add properties that we can only dream of now. And I find that super exciting. So for me, biology and the biomaterials, the brink of being able to use a new technology that is just superior to everything that we have invented.

Tsung: A revolution of matter is a great way to frame it. Can you talk a bit more about what biology can do that's novel, that's different, that's better. And how that ties into the promise.

Max: I think what biology has proven is that it can adapt and fit into every possible ecological niche. And that's a proven process, it's a multibillion year process basically. The inherent force of nature, which is evolution, is just so good at this. At the same time being able of always being fit for purpose as we would call it in a productization process, I would say.

But also just super resource efficient. So it, it brings everything really that would also satisfy our needs in a capitalist society basically. And the cool thing will be basically watching this concept merge: this conservation mindset and nature is holy and everything with the high tech, deep tech mindset of the scientists and the bio entrepreneurs and see them realize that, hey, we actually all want the same thing.

I think once these forces basically join there's not much that can stop this bio revolution. So I'm excited about it. In terms of what we can do, we can not control biology, but we can certainly nudge it and get a sense of what other functionalities are in there that we didn't even think about, and just stuff that chemistry could never do, for example.

So that's gonna be pretty cool. But again, I feel like we're where computer science was in the 1950s. A lot of that stuff is just still below the radar, but it's gonna be good.

Tsung: Yeah. And computer science in the 1950s, of course, massive s curves ahead, Moore's Law ahead for many decades. Can you talk a little about the origin story for Insempra and what led you to join?

Max: Sure. Absolutely. So Insempra was founded by our CEO Jens Kline, and he was already a household name in the scene, I would say. He was the CEO of AMSIlk who you also referenced in your blog article. And you also pointed out, I think that it's weird that this company's actually quite unknown and that people are more familiar with the Japanese and American competitors.

But if I remember correctly, AMSilk those guys were the first ones to really scale the production of biosynthetic spider protein from bacteria to industrial scale. And then I think what Jens then brought to the table, what made him also such an interesting person to talk to was that he then applied a very commercial mindset to this one substance, basically.

Just a bag of white powder that is this protein and Jens started to collaborate with different industries all over the place and started selling this into industries that you would never even think of basically.

Most successfully in the cosmetic space. So this protein has great properties for shampoos and creams and so on. And that was a big success story, at least within the synbio bubble in Germany. I think he wanted to do something similar, but on a broader technological basis and really keeping this hardcore focus on markets and customers.

I got to know him. We just went to the same events basically. And one day when I was already on my way out from my own company when we had pivoted away from a deep tech approach that I yeah I was in Munich and had coffee with him.

And he said, hey I'm doing something new. I need someone with a tech background to help me select what's the good stuff that we can put forward there and scale as fast as possible. Then I started as a consultant basically. So did a bit of freelancing and during those months I developed the tech acquisition strategy for Insempra. Then it was called Origin Bio. And that very quickly just turned into a full-time job. And then I became the first hire.

Tsung: So you were the first overall hire.

Max: Yeah, for half a year it was just Jens and me. Just trying to figure out where to find some office space and things like that. Just the regular scrambling that you have in the early days of a company which was interesting to see because my previous company, which was of course also in a similar space was much less well funded, I would say.

So when I joined Insempra they basically already had money in the bank, and some issues remain the same. And that is lab infrastructure, for example.

Tsung: I appreciate you shouting out the blog post. One thing I will say about AMSilk is I don't think a lot of folks have followed it that closely.

So even just looking at press releases, basically every single AMSilk press release ever, features in media... I got a decent picture of what AMSilk had done and like you said, super under the radar, super impressive execution. I think what you're pointing to and what I was sensing was that Jens had a good deal to do with that.

And I think they've sold their cosmetics business since then, right? To Givaudan and so kudos there. On Insempra, AMSilk was based in Munich. You said you had coffee with Jens in Munich. So what made you guys choose Berlin in the end?

Max: Oh, no. The company is headquartered in Munich . We're actually neighbors of AMSilk. Just because, everyone flocks to the hotspots where you have the infrastructure and that unfortunately, at least in Germany, are not too many spaces. And certainly for a biomanufacturing company Munich is a very good spot to be in.

Berlin really was was more of a private decision to some extent. I didn't necessarily want to move. I studied at the Technical University of Munich, so I knew the place already. And there are interesting things happening in Berlin as well. There's Cambrium which is the Biomanufacturing company. There's Formo, they make biosynthetic cheese. And of course it's the center of German politics, so if you have someone there, he or she can also go to some parliament events and talk to some members of parliament and talk up the entire space basically.

So this is also something that I do occasionally, which is nice because they always have good food. But currently we are two people in Berlin, I should say. I just recently re relocated to Oxford, so me now in the UK. It's my colleague in Berlin. And the rest of the team, including all of the operations and the labs are in Munich.

Tsung: I should have checked LinkedIn. That makes a ton of sense.

Insempra’s novel approach to commercialize biomaterials

Tsung: How does Insempra partner with the startups, the spin outs that, that they have IP with, because it's such a fascinating and almost unique model from what I've seen at least.

Max: So early on we thought we could break it down into one model in which we work with with startups. I should also say that this is part of what we do. We also collaborate with established businesses. And a big part of our work is also collaborating with academic partner's groups that, that are on the verge of building something cool that maybe requires another year of funding or so until it has a technology readiness level reached that it's something that we can then pick up and further develop in-house.

But yeah. Oh man, it's just a multitude of ways really, and it depends so much on the partner. I think what we often see is people can be absolutely brilliant. They have very solid science, got it to a level where stuff works at lab scale, be it a specific value chemical that they can produce through a sustainable microbiological way.

Or, they maybe have an interesting horizontal process that would just speed up biomanufacturing or make it cheaper. But often this is where they start to struggle. A lot of them are eager to scale it up to industrial industrial measures and to also commercialize it.

And these are often gaps that we see. So neither the up scaling experience, nor the commercial expertise in specific markets is there, and the, this is typically where we come in and we have the people who can literally just say: Hey, work with us because I've done it before.

This is basically a strong pitch for many. And we have a management team really with people with decades of experience in the cosmetics space, in the food space. So our promise is basically we know where you are and we can pick you up there and really accelerate the process.

Of course, there's some benefit sharing involved. Ideally in the long run, we have full ownership of these subsidiaries. But that also comes with benefits.

Tsung: So you've already got some partners signed up and obviously they seem to see those benefits. I wanted to talk about a couple of those in a bit more detail. So Carbocycle you acqui-hired, right? That's everyone that was at a now part of Insempra and then Solena, you've made a strategic investment into. What was compelling in both of those cases for Insempra to commit to those relationships.

Max: Early last year we got interested in lipids for many reasons. They're just basically just long carbon chains that store a lot of energy, chemical energy. And they are cool because they can be a solid replacement for mineral oil based and naphtha-based stuff which we all know is something that we shouldn't be using anymore.

But also the whole palm oil topic got more and more attention. And then, I looked into this. Turns out palm oil is it's not a great solution, but it's the best that we have at the moment. Released. Switching everything to rapeseed oil or sunflower oil would only make things worth.

It was clear that lipids are interesting. Here it was more a question of who's actually doing that. And now I could probably name five other companies that are doing this. Two years ago we weren't really sure about that. I talked about this with friends in the scene and that was all before our proper tech scouting channel and process was established.

And then a friend of mine told me, Hey I talked to this guy. They did this spin out from Columbia University in New York. And they did it probably too early. I think it was 2016 when Shash, Tim and Mel started Carbocycle.

And then they had to go their own ways because they couldn't really get the traction at that point, I think because it was too early. And then I talked to them and yeah we realized that we're completely mission aligned. And what they needed was a lab, some cash and these upscaling and market experts basically.

Then we made it work. We brought them all to Munich and now we are scaling a process where we can basically use second generation feed stocks and side streams, waste streams to make high quality oils and fats that, are indistinguishable from different plants or plant oils and even some animal fats. So that was a very organic process, I think in which we could integrate that technology into, Insempra.

The other example for Solena that what's really more of a traditional financing round, I would say. So here Insempra really was in VC mode, I wanna say. And yeah we started working with the team very early on so that it's a spin out from Imperial College. We gave a lot of input on different processes how to make sure they are very well set up once they are through the whole licensing process with the college. And gave input on product development because obviously that is something where Jens also has a lot of experience in this whole space.

What they do is they make structural proteins that can be turned into fibers and they're also prototyping already. Here we are super operationally involved investor, I would say. And that sort of demonstrates the different models that we have. And again, it just, it really depends on what the partner needs, and then we see if we can cater to that.

I also talk to a lot of early stage startups that we cannot really help because they have super strong founders who say I want to figure out the up scaling problem and I want to figure out where to sell this stuff to and I can get the money from somewhere else basically.

And that's also fair. We realized that quite early, I would say in our conversations. And then we can be like, Hey, this is awesome. If you need anything, happy to connect you. But then it's simply not an Insempra case.

Tsung: I'm curious for, Insempra why this model then?

Max: Initially we said, Okay, there's just so much good innovation that doesn't make it to this startup or spin out stage. In European universities and academic institutions mainly.

I think in the US the picture is a little bit different. I think postdocs often have that idea in mind that if they find something cool, they're gonna build a company on the back of that. It's not really the mindset that we have here. So that's a huge resource to tap into. That was the one thing I was like, Okay, we have so much good stuff going on because I read a lot of the academic development and so on.

And the second thing was the valley of death. So once stuff is a little bit more evolved in bio manufacturing, you start to scale then it doesn't really work in the first iteration. And you would actually have to go back, whatever, change this strain that you use to produce your stuff or pick another strain from your shortlist and then go back into pilot scale. But it's just incredibly expensive. And right now the, our financing system isn't really set up to allow for iteration in at that stage of the product development. So we saw two things here that could be improved to build or develop new biobased products.

And then of course these innovations are sometimes tied into a university or a startup or whatnot. And that's why we had to go broad with our models to make sure we can offer all of them something and see a mutual benefit. Yeah.

Tsung: What would you say are either the potential performance benefits today? Or even looking forward.

Max: A drop in chemical have their appeal, because it's easier to explain. You can basically say it's the same thing. It's chemically the same thing. Just the way that the substance came about differs from what you know. And it works with every already existing process basically, which is of course also important.

Whenever you sell a product and then it's not biotech or synbio specific, you have to be able to justify switching costs because there's no problem that doesn't already have a solution. Just the solution that many people are using right now, it's shitty. And if you want to make them switch to your stuff just has to be easily implemented, basically in their processes.

But as I mentioned earlier, we don't have to stop there. Since biology is for many of these substances, the superior production method, we can functionalize them and give them a value add and make it easier for people who work in a big company to, to argue that. They should be buying from you instead of from the guy who makes the petrochemical solution. So I think there's a lot that we can do in terms of improving the performance or adding functionality.

Tsung: I think that's really exciting to hear.

You've also said that Insempra could be used in a multitude of industries apparel, textiles, medical. What are the beachhead markets that Insempra is thinking about for Solena's protein and Carbocycle's lipids?

Insempra's beachhead markets for lipids and proteins

Max: As for every startup , a smart approach is to go for the high margin, low volume markets. Which is, I think necessary from also from a fundraising perspective and so on, and just to show early market traction because you don't have to scale insanely to show that you can actually make a profit.

On the other hand, of course, this is not how we solve the challenges of global heating. Basically we have to go bulk eventually, but we have to go step by step. So we focus on the cosmetics and personal care space simply because there you can have low volume ingredients that can be of very high quality and customers are open to pay for stuff that is good.

We don't necessarily go out and expect everyone to pay a green premium. We believe that we shouldn't bank on that at all. That's basically more like a Trojan horse that we shove in while we sell an ingredient that has these extra functionalities. So personal care is one space. Then there are some applications in the food space for the lipids as well.

And for Solena and these protein fibers we go for high end apparel. We already have a partner. I think it has been announced already, but I'm not entirely sure. So I'm not gonna say the name, but a big luxury brand is interested in the technology and they give Solena a lot of input on what the properties of these fiber that they make are supposed to be.

Partnering with incumbents and startups

Tsung: What do you think about selling to large incumbent brands versus smaller, more startup brands or even potentially vertically integrating with your own brand?

Max: Let's maybe start with the last point. I believe, and I see that in the scene right now, that even if people sell ingredients, b2b they still go all the way to the level of the final product at least to just test it. And we do the same thing. So we have different creams and oils and stuff and different powders already made from our substances just to understand how do our ingredients interact within the whole comprehensive formulation or recipe. It helps us to understand what's important when we develop products and it's just a beautiful showcase. You can just show it to customers and, you can wrap that cream onto your hand. It's Hey, this is smells good. It has all the qualities that I want. It's exciting.

In terms of maybe eventually we will also virtually fully vertically integrate, but it's not really what we want to do right now. We are a b2b product company. In terms of working with with customers, I the pros and cons for both camps. If you work with the incumbents of course you have to protect your stuff much better.

They work slower, but they have the means, they have the established value chains, logistics, whatnot. They can scale with you, with your production, basically. It's more fun to work with the startups. They're much easier to get excited and they reply to your emails faster and they make sure, the whatever the NDAs and the material transfer agreements and all of that stuff is basically all done in time.

So it, it feels like more traction. But this is it's a little bit dangerous because in the long run we have processes with inherent technology risk. These other startups have their own inherent risk. They also have to prove that they can find product market fit. So you multiply the risk of both companies.

If you go with a big player, then they don't have to prove their business model anymore. So you're more on the safe side, which can also feel nice.

Tsung: I was laughing when you talked about startups respond to emails faster.

Max: It's also about, yeah, just trying things out and then being able to realize quite quickly what doesn't work and then move your resources somewhere else. I think startups who figured out how to do that are much more likely to succeed.

Tsung: Hundred percent. How you think about costs over time and about them falling as you scale into larger markets for both the lipids and the and the proteins?

Max: Initially just COGs will be high. We will start in more niche markets that obviously are still big enough to make a profit But then scale out to larger markets. And here's of course economies of scale a big topic. So once we go from 10,000 liters production volume to 100, 200,000 liters You employ the same three people who sit there and organize everything, make sure everything goes according to plan, but you 10 x, 20 x your output, basically. So I think that is important and that is the biggest factor that we also really factor in.

My wish is that in the future, the current alternatives will also have it less easy because right now we the price of carbon emissions isn't really reflected on the product or in the cost of the product that we buy. And that gives unsustainable products or manufacturing processes and unfair advantage. And I think it's long overdue with it. Get rid of that. This is more, geared towards policy makers. It's just moving too slow really. We certainly don't factor that in. I wanna be clear about that because we don't know how long it's gonna take. It will change eventually, but it might take decades.

But certainly economies of scale is a point. Getting a better understanding of what value looks like to your customers once you started selling them one product you understand, Maybe different other pain points. You can develop stuff for that and then really scale out and sell at a premium, not because you're green, but because you just have the better product.

This is really how we also want to position in Insempra. It's not about only selling drop in alternative. We just want to make use of the superior production means that we have with biology as the co-developer of our products.

Tsung: Biology as co-developer and from green premium to premium premium. It's a premium because it's better.

Max: Yeah.

Being asset-light with contract manufacturing

Tsung: I think AMSilk has largely used CMOs to scale up. How does Insempra think about CMOs versus trying to build some of that manufacturing capacity in house?

Max: Sure, we basically go up to a certain volume in house, in our bio process development. But it's an asset light company. We have the context and the access to those facilities. Also thanks to the experience team that we have. So we never really want to own a large scale facility.

One important point to make is that stainless steel is also something that in investors certain venture capital doesn't necessarily want to finance. So as long as we can keep it asset light, we certainly will go that way. It has its pros and cons. We believe that when you have good partners and you get the tech transfer right then then that can be hugely beneficial.

At the same time, we want to make sure that all of the development that is relevant in, from a intellectual property perspective is in house or as much of that as possible, as at least because that is simply where a lot of our value comes from. Clearly.

Tsung: When I think about at least the few of the biomaterials manufacturers and startups, scaling startups here, which have by and large taken a non-asset light approach, right? By and large, have tried to fund their own manufacturing capacity. And I'm generalizing here but I could think of perhaps a Bolt or on the mycelium side, Ecovative.

Of course Spiber over in Japan for spider silk protein, but in Germany AMSilk seems to have done that quite successfully. You guys are also taking the asset like CMO approach.

Max: Because I guess our management has seen that it works, but also I think an important point that you just touched on is that and there US companies where there's simply less of that legacy infrastructure that we have in Europe. So there's, there are a lot of depreciated steel tanks in Europe that had been used up to whatever the eighties or so to make antibiotics and stuff.

So that these facilities still exist. They are old obviously, but they can be retrofitted. And they've been idle because then everything basically moved to Eastern Asia. All of production, not only in the biologic space and anything really. And we can tap into these resources now, which is great.

Having said that, we will most certainly run into an upscaling bottleneck. If only a fraction of these cool companies, like us obviously Cambrium, Formo or all of them. When they make it and they need large scale facilities, then it's going to be difficult. We see this already, but I think in Europe it still okay, but it's gonna get worse.

So I'm always excited when I see announcement that new initiatives to basically provide these facilities. I know this is then still four years down the line, probably from when you start to plan this to, to having your first run. But yeah, we're getting there.

So that is certainly exciting and there's also new stuff that's being built not too far away from Insempra's headquarters in Munich. We are hopeful that we will be able to produce at scale at any point on our product development.

Tsung: That's exciting and there are many challenges that a lot of folks talk about with fermentation capacity scale up. It's good to hear that at least things are potentially looking up while there's still being many challenges ahead.

Venture advisory work at Amino Collective

Tsung: Let's talk a bit about Amino Collective, your role there and also what's been surprising about the work there, if anything?

Max: Oh, absolutely. . It's been very surprising. I have a scientific background. I only, dipped my toe into the financing world a couple of years ago, and I'm grateful that I can take part in this venture that is Amino Collective. That is the fund that Manuel Grossmann built up. It's now fund number one. Hopefully soon there will be the second fund. Manu is an entrepreneur himself. Had a successful exit and then, just the usual way started angel investing very successfully. And then started to raise the fund to do this on a larger scale.

It has a strong health tech digital health focus. And more and more over the past two years, this is how long I'm working with Manu and Amino now, we've been venturing into the synbio and bio manufacturing space. There are one or two interesting investments and some stuff in the pipeline certainly I find exciting. My role is that of an I think we call it expert partner where I give input on the science but also interview the teams and so on do some due diligence on the overall setup of the companies. It's just cool to see how many interesting, crazy ideas are out there and to also see that slowly, seeing companies founded by people that do not have this decade long academic track record.

Which just tells me that, yes, we are getting better at engineering biology, and basically turning it from an engineering discipline into a design discipline. Just more inclusive and more people with good ideas can turn them into reality. Of course it's always helpful if you have a technical co-founder, but just the tools are getting so good that I'm hopeful that in a couple of years from now no one will need to get a PhD in order to have the depth of insight into a certain topic to build a company.

And this is the process that, I'm monitoring and through all of the interesting opportunities I see through Amino Collective I see that we're slowly getting there, basically. And that's something that gets me excited, plus getting exposed also to topics that I don't really deal with during my day job.

Amino Collective is one of the very first investors in a company called Molecule, and they are in the web 3 space and they make basically an IP NFT market space so that you can sell or trade bits of intellectual property to accelerate this entire tech transfer process. And that intuitively made so much sense to me, coming from this scientific background and just seeing how tedious the process is and then seeing that this is something that can be solved with blockchain was was very eye opening.

So I learn a lot and I hope I also bring a lot to the table and there's a lot of more cool stuff that 's gonna be announced through Amino Collective.

Tsung: Awesome. The de-sci to help with funding mechanisms and the little, I've looked into what it is quite fascinating as an alternative to tech transfer, and the tooling is getting so much better as well. I'm really excited about that too.

And it's really reminiscent of what we've seen in hardware in tech. And then, now you don't have to roll your own servers, you have AWS now. You don't even have to code, you can use no code, low code apps.

The future of biomaterials and self-improving bio-iPhones

Tsung: It's really exciting for biology and and synbio. Looking at the future and beyond Insempra what do you think biomaterials might enable in 15 years and what are you most excited about?

Max: What we already touched on is added functionality that current technologies cannot really achieve. That is the hopefully the next three to five year goal after that really. I think the killer app, the thing that would be an absolute game changer would be to really utilize the concept of evolution in biological products. It's the driving force of nature really. It makes sure that everything is fit for purpose. Imagine you have that for your everyday household items and updates the things that you use around you. They improve by itself. They get better at what they're supposed to be doing like an iPhone of synthetic biology only that you don't have to buy a new one every year.

But it just improves in itself and, how would that change our economy? What happens if we don't have to get new stuff on a super high frequency, including fashion and everything. There are concept of self healing cement, self-healing this and that.

And we could really improve that even further than just have stuff that that just adapt in terms of the functionalities of the product. I'm thinking a lot about how that would change economies if we didn't have to buy new stuff all the time. Stuff improved.

How would we think about nature? How would we think about diversity? Because obviously evolution and diversity are two very interlinked concepts. And just what it would do with the minds of people really. Short answer turning evolution in bio manufacturing and bio-based products from a bug into a feature.

Tsung: As you were saying, iPhone update, I was thinking like bio over the air updates, but maybe you had something even more intrinsic to the material right in mind. And it's not an OTA update, it's it's an organic update that's constantly happening.

Which is pretty wild and sci-fi.

Max: And your bio iPhone might get a different update than mine because you use it differently. That kind of stuff is possible in evolution. So having something like that I don't have a very specific idea of how that would look like, and it most certainly won't be an iPhone.

But having a similar device that we just intuitively understand and know why it is useful and then understand that it works powered by biology, I think that would be incredibly powerful.

Tsung: Agreed. Where would you like help? Who do you want to hear from?

Max: Oof. I am always looking for interesting new innovations and technology. Early stage stuff, half ready thing. In the biotech, the biomanufacturing space I basically can quickly look at these opportunities and then funnel them into, Insempra if it's a good fit for Insempra and if it's something that's more like a standalone thing and it's not really Something where Insempra can add a lot of value, then I can funnel that into Amino Collective. Or if it doesn't fit anywhere, I can hook people up with other founders, with other investors. So always happy to do that.

I love building networks and just creating value by connecting the right people. If anyone has any cool technology and they want to talk about it, want some input on it, or even want to work with a partner to, to get there to the next level yeah, super happy to do that.

Tsung: Fantastic. Anything else we should have covered or any other parting words for listeners?

Max: Try to understand evolution, try to think in carbon stream, when you buy stuff, when you consume stuff all of that has to be cycled back into a value chain or a value net.

So I think that's very powerful to understand that every carbon atom that we wear on our body that we ingest or use otherwise will end up as carbon dioxide at some point because it's just the most stable, most oxidized form of carbon. And we have to get that back into a form of substance that again, it's usable.

And that begs for more conscious consumption, I think. And this is certainly one thing that we need to do in the meantime because what's also clear is that technology will not be the sole savior. I think we can do our part, but we need some individual responsibility. And first and foremost corporate responsibility and the right policies to be implemented.

Tsung: How can listeners connect with you online?

Max: I'm most active on Twitter and on LinkedIn. So LinkedIn is just find me through my name on Twitter, It's at Max Mundt, but I didn't get the version with the "u", so I put an X instead. So it's @maxmxndt, this is where I'm most responsive and where I'm also super happy to connect.

Tsung: I'll add the links in the episode description. Max, thanks so much for coming on. This has been really fun and really appreciate your time.

Max: Tsung, thank you for having me. And again, like kudos to the work that you're doing. I really love reading those blog articles and yeah, looking forward to the next one.

Tsung: Thanks so much for listening.

Materially Better is a new podcast, and I am a first time podcaster.

So if you enjoyed this episode, I would really appreciate if you left a rating on the Spotify or Apple Podcast app, or like, and comment on YouTube.

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So thanks again and see you on the next one.


Materially Better
Materially Better
Conversations on new performance materials and their applications with founders, scientists and leaders. Hosted by Tsung Xu, a repeat founder, blogger and venture partner.