New York invests $25m in SOSV’s IndieBio to fuel life sciences ambitions

23 Jul 2018

Manhattan Bridge through the eyes of Brooklyn. Image: Jason Sponseller/Shutterstock

Life sciences investor born in Cork was one of the earliest venture capital firms to hone in on the synbio opportunity.

San Francisco-based life sciences accelerator IndieBio is to establish a new location in New York City after it secured $25m in funding from the state.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that the SOSV accelerator, the sister of its Cork counterpart RebelBio, will work with 20 start-ups a year.

‘There is no field of human endeavour that is not going to be impacted by this technology, which will be more ubiquitous than computers or the internet or mobile phones’

The accelerator, most likely to be located in Manhattan, will provide each start-up with investment of up to $2m as well as mentorship and business training.

The investment in IndieBio is understood to be part of a broader push by economic development officials to boost New York state’s biotech, biomedical and pharma industries.

A new space for disruption

SOSV’s synthetic biology (synbio) venture capital (VC) firm IndieBio last year topped CB Insights’ list of the most active investors in this new space for disruption.

SOSV founder and New York native Sean O’Sullivan’s accelerator established IndieBio in 2014, becoming one of the earliest VC firms to have discovered the disruptive area of synbio.

We recently reported how, according to life sciences analyst Calvin Schmidt, the venture firm is still the world’s leading investor in synbio, surpassing even Microsoft founder and former CEO Bill Gates as well as tech investor stalwarts Khosla Ventures and Y Combinator.

SOSV partner Bill Liao recently pointed out to that the costs of engineering biological systems have reduced 10m-fold in 12 years to make Moore’s Law look like a flat line.

“Our ability to harness the power of life as precision engineering is going to determine our future as a species,” he told

One of IndieBio’s investments, CyCa OncoSolutions, has developed a biotech nano-machine that is affordable to manufacture.

Liao said that the opportunities in life sciences, biotech and specifically synbio are vast.

“The scope of the opportunity is to have the world’s single largest industry worth trillions annually.

“Just through RebelBio, in the last four years, we have seen successful companies that make milk without cows, cannabinoids without hemp, fabric from seaweed, vibrant colour dyes from bacteria, oral vaccines from algae you can eat, electricity from wastewater, protein from beer waste, and so many more.

“There is no field of human endeavour that is not going to be impacted by this technology, which will be more ubiquitous than computers or the internet or mobile phones,” Liao said.

O’Sullivan established SOSV in 1995 and today, the company has $300m in assets under management. A large network of follow-on VCs invests another $200m in SOSV start-ups every year.

O’Sullivan’s first company, MapInfo, grew to become a $200m public company. Among his successful investments to date are Netflix and Harmonix, creator of Guitar Hero.

SOSV accelerators include: the life sciences-focused IndieBio (San Francisco) and RebelBio (Cork); hardware and robotics-focused HAX (Shenzhen and San Francisco); internet and mobile-oriented Chinaccelerator (Shanghai) and MOX (Taipei); and disruptive food-based Food-X (New York).

Disclaimer: SOSV is an investor in

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years