“For too long, advances in technology have come at the expense of our environment. Our team considers nature to be the most sophisticated technology, immediately puts Lionel Mora, CEO and co-founder of Neoplants. It is now essential to use our human talent in innovating to consider it an ally and work with it, rather than consuming it. To achieve this, he and his assistant Patrick Torbey, CTO in charge of R&D, imagined an innovative product, inside the Entrepreneur First incubator at Station F in Paris: the depolluting plant for the home or office, whose DNA has been modified to capture not only CO2, but also the four main indoor air pollutants.
After four years of research, Neoplants is about to offer in pre-order, during the first quarter of 2023, the first product of its line: the Neo P1. This biotech plant is set to be unveiled to the world at CES in Las Vegas, where the two co-founders planned to showcase it. “It is a revolutionary innovation that combines deeptech, biotechnology and is aimed at the general public. We don’t fit in any box”, analyzes Lionel Mora again. He counts on this technological summit to spread his message: “Biology is the most advanced technology in the world and tomorrow it must be part of the solutions to fight global warming. »
“Working on a project that makes sense, with a positive impact”
The two heads of start-up Neoplants met in September 2018 and the idea soon took shape. “I learned how to use genome editing techniques, which make it possible to change the genetics of an organism, add or remove characteristics. I wanted to show the power of these tools to have a positive impact on the world and on people’s lives,” says Patrick Torbey, PhD in genetics at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, rue d’Ulm.
For his part, Lionel Mora was coming off four years at Google in London, where he worked on launching new product categories. “As a good self-respecting Millennial, I wanted to work on a project that made sense, with a positive impact. At the time, we had really nice plants all around us at Station F, and the clicking was happening really fast as we were talking. For us, the noblest and most powerful function given to plants was to purify the air. We never came back from that conversation. Neoplants was born.
A laboratory in Saint-Ouen about to open
Four years of development then began for the two entrepreneurs, marked by a first fundraising in the summer of 2019 and a second in the summer of 2021. “The beginnings were complicated, we had no resources, Patrick invaded the students in the research laboratories, ” recalls Lionel Mora. A first partnership with the Paris-Saclay Institute of Plant Biology allows them to move forward. “It was a real opportunity to live daily with French public research teams and benefit from the infrastructure made available for three years”, continues the co-founder of Neoplants.
“Since our first fundraiser, we have had the luxury of being able to choose our investors and, in particular, a Silicon Valley fund, True Ventures, which had never invested in a French start-up before. At that time, our main objective was to prove that our idea was technically viable”, adds Lionel Mora. Two years later, Neoplants launches its second fundraising for a project about to be realized: opening its own headquarters in Saint-Ouen (Seine-Saint-Denis) and building one of the most advanced biotechnology laboratories. “We are now almost 25 and it was important for us to plan for the long term in independent facilities”, further specifies the CEO.
Why is the Neo P1 not available in France?
If they claim that their “neoplants” are in fact technological products, the two entrepreneurs do not lose sight of their main objective. “Today, we are developing the first generation of biotechnological plants, capable of not only capturing but also eliminating pollutants from the air. The idea is to use this first use case to develop the fundamental technologies and then move from indoors to outdoors, from air quality to climate”, they recall.
But impossible at the moment to find Neo P1 in France in 2023, the first Neoplants stamped product will be launched in the American market. “Currently, European regulation takes three and a half to four years from the filing of the marketing authorization file. Which is an eternity for a box like us, laments Patrick Torbey. We are two French founders, now with a laboratory and all R&D based in France, we bring talent from all over the world, but we cannot wait that long to commercialize our product. “Even if the French Tech Green20 program, of which we are part, brings us a lot, it is much more pragmatic to launch ourselves in the United States, where regulation is made only on a scientific basis, as opposed to the European Union, where the political vote enters into the games », adds Lionel Mora.
While waiting for the Neo P1 to arrive on our side of the Atlantic, plant lovers, who regularly overwater or underwater plants, can be inspired by the Neoplants user experience. “We added a reservoir in the pot, which has two functions: to maximize air exchange between the plant and the substrate and to allow independent watering for two weeks”. In short, the dream solution to reduce the mortality risk of our beloved plants by 90 to 95%, according to Neoplants specialists.