As part of the SynBioBeta virtual Built with Biology Summit, TFF organized a “Biotech in Emerging Economies” roundtable featuring TFF teams microTERRA, Xilinat, and FrontierSS. Here’s what we discussed and learned. 

The Built with Biology Summit was a virtual gathering to explore how biology can redefine the economy, supply chains, and manufacturing at local, state, national, and global levels, and paint on the empty canvas of solutions that COVID-19 has left us with. 

Biology-based innovations can indeed solve the most important challenges our world is facing. It can also help strengthen some of the most vulnerable communities, especially in emerging economies. Yet, cutting-edge innovations are still primarily coming from and targeting Western countries.

  • “In Mexico, we tap into innovation networks, such as, which unites the biotech community across Latin America. Having networks like this and Thought For Food, which connects us to regional and global opportunities for funding and exposure is very helpful, and actually helps us to unlock more opportunities here at home.” 

    Javier Larragoiti Co-founder of Xilinat
  • “Working in an emerging economy has given us an upper hand. We’ve been able to operate very cost-effectively and our solution is really relevant for the Mexican market. It is an easier sell inwards.”

    Fanny Villiers COO & Co-founder of microTERRA
  • “In Nigeria, we face so many challenges. With electricity blackouts occurring regularly, we had to switch to a fossil fuel generator at one point and so we often wonder whether we are actually saving more than we are emitting. Also, we can’t access alternative funding models like global crowdfunding platforms, leading us to constantly think outside the box in a bid to access funds. As biotech entrepreneurs in developing countries within Africa, we should connect to one another and to the wider world. Someone somewhere may have solved the problem we are facing today."

    Albert Kure Co-founder of FrontierSS & 2018 TFF Challenge Winner

Many of these challenges are global ones that require us to apply systems thinking and consider all sorts of different factors. Reconstructing the new normal together is an advantage to accelerate how we innovate.

To increase the potential and impact of bio-based innovations from emerging economies, we must democratize state-of-the-art knowledge, and connect innovation directly with social inclusion. Makerspaces and Biolabs have made a start to change this. But we believe there is much more we can do. So how can we drive biotech innovation in emerging economies?

Watch the full recording of our “Biotech in Emerging Economies” session SynBioBeta’s Built with Biology Summit here.


More from the Covid Collaboration Collective

Our recently-launched Covid Collaboration Collective (Co3) collects and shares the solutions that TFFers around the world are developing, so that they can be deployed more quickly in other places.