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Mitchell Duffy, co-founder Cambrium, Swisspreneur Podcast

EP #243 - Mitchell Duffy: Novel Materials, Novel Functionalities

Mitchell Duffy

May 23, 2022

3:05 - Running a coffee shop from a dorm room

9:50 - Why biology is the most advanced tech on Earth

13:32 - How to program proteins

15:05 - Vegan, sustainable collagen

23:30 - Surviving climate change

About Mitchell Duffy:

Mitchell Duffy is the CEO and co-founder at Cambrium, a next-generation materials company utilizing the molecular programmability of proteins to re-imagine the products you use everyday. Originally hailing from the US, he majored in Biology and Computer Science at Tufts University, did his masters in Synthetic Biology in London and his PhD in Molecular Imaging in Germany.

Shortly after finishing his PhD he became an Entrepreneur in Residence at Merantix, the ML incubator created by Adam Locher. It was here that he developed his idea for Cambrium, which he founded in 2020.

Cambrium’s crede is that biology is the most advanced tech on Earth: from robots, to swarm intelligence, to carbon removal, nature has already perfected what we are still struggling to achieve. The problem that Cambrium tackles is that materials make up 23% of greenhouse gas emissions, the vast majority of them having been gouged from the Earth, pumped from the ground or sliced from the bodies of animals. Man-made materials have, in fact, already surpassed all the biomass on Earth. Cambrium wishes to go from an extractive to a generative way of producing materials, and they plan to do so through the programming of proteins.

How do you program proteins? Well, proteins are made of 20 amino acids — you put these amino acids in different orders and you get completely different properties, different materials. Ever since the protein folding problem was solved in 2020, people have been able to program and test protein designs in their labs. Cambrium has done this with collagen, and created a completely vegan and sustainable version of it for cosmetic products.

Memorable Quotes:

"Materials represent 23% of greenhouse gas emissions. In 2020, the weight of man-made materials came to outweigh every biomass on Earth."

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