Grant Aarons - FabricNano - Part 3

Meeting His Co-Founder at Entrepreneur First | Importance of Sales to the Scientific Community | Disrupting the Petrochemical Industry | The Dark Horse of Biology, Synthetic Biology

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Show Notes

Part 3 of 3. 

My guest for this week’s episode is Grant Aarons, Co-Founder and CEO of FabricNano, a London-based biotech whose mission is to transform industrial chemical processes using cell-free biomanufacturing. FabricNano empowers users with the world's most advanced, flexible, and easily scalable biocatalyst platform, providing highly stable and performant biocatalysts to enable profitable production of sustainable and biobased chemicals. Their approach starts with novel immobilization engineering for enzyme stabilization, followed by budget-conscious protein engineering and process engineering to reach their clients' targets for commercialization of their new biochemical production process. 

Before FabricNano, Grant was a Research Analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and while pursuing his PhD at the London Business School, became an Entrepreneur In Residence at Entrepreneur First, an international business accelerator that has created over 300 companies worth over $10 billion. Grant's diverse experience gives him a unique perspective on the startup ecosystem that everyone can benefit from.

Join us this week and hear about:

  • Grant’s experience at Entrepreneur First and how FabricNano started
  • Why sales is such an underrated part of the scientific community
  • How show and tell helped Grant learn at a young age how to pitch to VCs
  • What a future powered by enzymes might look like and how to disrupt the petrochemical market
  • Tips on how entrepreneurs can bring their ideas to life even in difficult economic times

Please enjoy my conversation with Grant Aarons.

As a podcast listener, you can redeem exclusive discounts with a growing list of biotech vendors and get $500 off your first equipment lease by using promo code “TBSP” on

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Grant Aarons

Grant Aarons is the Co-Founder and CEO of FabricNano, a London-based biotech whose mission is to transform industrial chemical processes using cell-free biomanufacturing. FabricNano empowers users with the world's most advanced, flexible, and easily scalable biocatalyst platform.

Before FabricNano, Grant was a Research Analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and while pursuing his PhD at the London Business School, became an Entrepreneur In Residence at Entrepreneur First, an international business accelerator that has created over 300 companies worth over $10 billion.

Episode Transcript

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Intro - 00:00:01: Welcome to the Biotech Startups Podcast by Excedr. Join us as we speak with first-time founders, serial entrepreneurs, and experienced investors about the challenges and triumphs of running a biotech startup from pre-seed to IPO with your host, Jon Chee. In our last episode, we spoke with Grant Aarons about attending London Business School, his predictive modelling research, and his takeaways from his time at Entrepreneur First. If you missed it, be sure to go back and give part two a listen. In part three, we talk with Grant about the importance of building a sustainable business model, Fabric Nano's novel utilisation of proteins for industrial applications, and their commitment to sustainability. Grant also offers valuable advice for aspiring entrepreneurs navigating the complexities of the biotechnology industry, emphasising the significance of curiosity, risk-taking, and seeking support from family and friends.

Grant - 00:01:09: When I joined the program, people always ask me, what's the best way to approach this, right? So I've mentored a few people going into the program that are randomly assigned to me from EF. So I support Entrepreneur First in that way. I help with pitches before they go off. So I see a lot of angel deal flow through people who are about to go out to fundraise. And I can filter them to the right investors. But going back to what the experience was like for me and what I tell people all the time about this accelerator is, you should not go in with a preconception of what you want to build and who you want to build it with. There's a lot of people that enter entrepreneur First and say, I have a background in music and I love to pair up with a machine learning engineer who works on audio. Sometimes that works, but innovation and good ideas don't come from you preconceiving it in your living room and showing up and being like, who can help me build this thing and who can serve my idea? That's a bad way to approach building a company, I think. And so what I learned very early in the program was I'm going to be the CTO of a Fintech Company. Who wants to be the CEO and who has a background in like selling data and services? Nobody. Who wants to work on this type of thing? I had like five ideas. Nobody wanted to work on these fintech ideas. And it was surprising for me that I had to basically in the third day of the program after not having paired up and over 60 people had paired up out of 100. I was like, something's wrong with me. I got a problem. I have a smell or something. And so I came back on the, I think it was the third or fourth day, midway through the third day or fourth day. I came back and I said, I'm going to be the CEO. Let me talk to every PhD that's in this program to figure out what they do for their profession and what they do for their academics. And so I talked to a crypto person. I talked to a cybersecurity person. I talked to the types of professions are just, they've eroded over the last five years. But I ended up meeting my co-founder from the accelerator named Ferdy. And he explained to me the biophysics that's involved when proteins do reactions and how they could be used outside of cells to do chemistry. And I was like, wait a minute, you're telling me that this fancy stuff everyone keeps talking about, SynBio, engineering biology, it's not just about genetics. It's these little pieces, these cogs, these machines that operate like in a very robust and systematic way of. 

Jon - 00:03:16: Yeah, you can do that.

Grant - 00:03:18: And so this sparked the curiosity that never died. So from that day in October, 2018, I have been forever curious about how you get proteins to work outside of cells for the industrial chemical industry, because that's what triggered me on day one. That's what really got me excited. That's the vision that I got behind. And that's also the vision that employees can get behind. If people don't want to work with you, it's because the vision is not big enough. I found a vision that I wanted to go with and that I thought was cool that was not my vision. And I joined this party we're having in Symbio. I joined this collection. And this collection is a highly helpful mentor-mentee style of people. I love this community and I'm really happy that I was motivated by the visionary tale that my co-founder told me in the early days.

Grant - 00:03:18: And so this sparked the curiosity that never died. So from that day in October, 2018, I have been forever curious about how you get proteins to work outside of cells for the industrial chemical industry, because that's what triggered me on day one. That's what really got me excited. That's the vision that I got behind. And that's also the vision that employees can get behind. If people don't want to work with you, it's because the vision is not big enough. I found a vision that I wanted to go with and that I thought was cool that was not my vision. And I joined this party we're having in Symbio. I joined this collection. And this collection is a highly helpful mentor-mentee style of people. I love this community and I'm really happy that I was motivated by the visionary tale that my co-founder told me in the early days.

Jon - 00:04:10: That's awesome. So you've found this spark of inspiration and obviously you're still on the journey right now. It's starting to firm up a little bit. Fabric Nano is not just like a glint in your eye. It's now becoming this fully formed thought and you're starting to actually go on it. Can you talk a little bit about that and how Entrepreneur First supported that and nurtured that and actually helped you stand it up?

 Grant - 00:04:33: So after the forum stage, which we just talked about, finding a co-founder, finding an idea and a vision for what you want to build into, what sector you're going to build into, we then entered the launch stage. And the launch stage, it's all customer development, right? You learn for the first time what it means to really do customer development, which feels incredible at the time. And you don't realize how much you're spamming the world with emails. So I learned how to use this thing called Streak. And I learned how to put CRMs together. And I was like, I've never done this before.

Jon - 00:05:03: I want to pause right there. I use Streak too. That's the Gmail CRM, right? That was free.

Grant - 00:05:08: Yeah.

Jon - 00:05:08: Yeah. Okay. Crazy. I use the same thing.

Grant - 00:05:12: I will not tell you where I found these emails, but I was able to acquire over 140,000 emails. Of people in the chemical industry and biotech industry. And I automated the sending of all these emails with the right, I made sure it came out correctly. It wasn't like, hi, proper first name. The thing looked good. I checked it like six times, diligent, right? And I sent out these like 140,000 messages. And then Gmail got back to me and was like, we can no longer send you messages. I was like, what just happened? And it was like, you hit the 50,000 limit for the day. And I was like, I didn't know. It still has a limit. You can't send more than 50,000 emails in a day. And I kid you not, what happens when you send 50,000 emails in a day is you can't even receive emails anymore. It shuts down. I looked at other people in the room. I looked across the table as a coworker and was like, can you send me an email to this address? Someone sent me an email. I was like, it's not coming in. I was like, let me send myself an email. It's not coming in. I was like, Gmail is broken. And so when Fabric Nano entered the launch stage, we sent over three days, 140,000 emails, and we took like 30 calls because that's how many people respond. And that's what I think a lot of people don't get about early stages. We didn't ask the right questions. And we learned a lot about the company through 2021, right? Like there's a lot of learning that happens over time and pivots that are made. But to get to that first understanding of what market you're operating in and the names, the terminology, the things you need to know, you got to send 150,000 emails. You got to kiss a lot of frogs and you might find 30 people that respond to you. That is a lesson that I think everyone should know about the early days.

Jon - 00:06:51: It's so crazy that you're saying this because I had an identical experience. Identical. Our first client was from a cold email from streak. HubSpot wasn't even a CRM yet. It was just a marketing tool. So I was like, Salesforce. Afford Salesforce?

Grant - 00:07:09: Yeah, it's too big for us right now.

Jon - 00:07:11: Yeah, yeah. It's me at a table. I'm not going to buy a Salesforce instance. You know, I think a lot of the time, the scientific community kind of shies away from sales. But I think you're doing yourself a disservice by not embracing it. And like, look, do sales in a tasteful manner. Be thoughtful. Don't be rude. But there's an aspect of it that is not talked about enough is that even sales in the most traditional sense, like selling your product is just one aspect, like everything you do, if you're founding a company, there's like an undertone that you got to sell. If you're trying to raise money, that's selling, trying to convince someone to join your vision and your team, that's selling. And so I love hearing that. And this seems to be something that companies that ultimately see success have roots in this kind of like, we're just going to pound the pavement and learn here. Same exact experience.

Grant - 00:08:04: Yeah, I think it's incredibly important to have that mindset. And I bring it back to something we both share, which is we're raised in America, I believe, right? And I don't want to go into anything about American exceptionalism. I like being an American. And I think a lot of people try to wake from that identity. But I'm proud to be an American. I'm also proud to be almost a UK citizen. But at the end of the day, the best thing I loved about American education is the idea of show and tell. You know what that means. I know what that means. And most people that grew up outside the United States have no idea what we're talking about. So show and tell is with a kid, you come in and you talk about an item once a month, you get an opportunity to stand up in front of the class, talk about a teddy bear or whatever, a news article. This is. The ultimate training for talking to VCs and to talk about vision and companies and what you're building and being proud to talk about sales and what it is you offer. And this is like a fundamental thing we're kind of just luckily raised with in the US.

Jon - 00:08:59: It seems that you've gotten a bit of conviction here. Can you talk about the official launch of Fabric Nano, the mission, the focus, and just the early days of company formation?

Grant - 00:09:11: Sure. So I think it's important to put the mission and vision of the company up front. We believe in a sustainable future powered by enzymes. Most people don't know what enzymes are. Our mission is to make enzymes work in a cell-free environment and in the applications industry that we want them to work. So very simple, right? A sustainable future powered by these things called enzymes and a mission that says, let's make them work. Because they don't work today. And before I go into the detail of how they don't work, why don't we talk about other big misconceptions and myths about biology and some of the things I learned very early in Entrepreneur First. So the first one is that biology isn't capable of producing as much material as we need. But this is not true. Nature all around us is made of materials that are made from chemicals that come from biology. So if you look at the bark of a tree, you look at the leaf of the tree. If you just look at your own body, the nail on your hand and on your fingers, the skin, your hair, it's all very different material properties, but it's all made from biology. So biology has the potential to make pretty much as much material as we need with as much diversity as we could ever imagine. But what people seem to think is the fundamental unit of this biology is an organism or a cell. People think yeast. Yeast takes sugar, makes alcohol. That's the magic. The yeast. Yeast is the magic. That's not correct. The magic is the protein inside of the cell that runs the biology. If you think about how a chemical is made, it's a biochemical process inside of an organism. So yeast doesn't just convert sugar to alcohol. It takes sugar into its cell wall and its membrane, and then it converts that sugar through a path of multiple proteins to the end alcohol and a lot of other byproducts. But what is powerful is if you can work with the fundamental unit of biological transformation, and that's the protein. And so what we do at Fabric Nano is we look at what it means to take a protein outside of a host organism and get it to function for a very long time so it can be used industrially. What is the problem? The problem that people run into is as soon as you remove a protein from its host and you use it in vitro or cell-free, this protein will denature, typically in a few hours. So this thing only lasts as a balled up bit of shoestring. Or amino acids for a few hours, and then it's useless to use. If you pay for that thing, you pay for that transistor, that unit gone in two hours, you can't build a business out of that. And so what we focused on at Fabric Nano is the margin and the yield that is required to build protein-based biochemical solutions, biocatalysts, and how we could stabilize protein. And the best way to stabilize a protein is not to go find some miracle protein in nature that has stability. It's to take any protein and put it in contact with the surface. We can use any surface. You can use a plastic bottle. You can use a glass bead. You can use a coffee grind from your Nespresso machine. You could put an enzyme or protein on any of these materials, and you can stabilize it. Thousands of fold longer than if the enzyme or protein is just floating around in solution. So what we are capable of doing is taking proteins from nature, harnessing those fundamental units, and then putting them onto surfaces so that they last for years in industrial application. And so our business is all about protein and mobilization. We invented the terminology immobilization engineering, TM. My team always jokes about the TM.

Jon - 00:12:48: The TM for everyone out there.

Grant - 00:12:49: TM. And what does that mean? What that means is we actually engineer and look at the interaction between a protein and the surface. Nobody studies this robustly. People do this, but they screen it randomly. We actually do a directed search and a mutagenesis of the protein surface to match it with the material. It's kind of like how in semiconductors, what you're trying to do is you're trying to put transistors into the right architecture on the wafer so that they can function to do a process. We do the same thing with proteins. We put proteins on a surface so that they can execute a process for a very long time and very efficiently. But it's the architecture of that connection that we use lots of data, high throughput and machine learning for that allows us to build these systems faster and with better functionality than any of our competitors. And we can pretty much build any bioprocessor that a customer wants. And so that's what we do at our core is we do this immobilization of proteins using a tool we've called immobilization engineering, just like protein engineering, but it's for putting protein on stuff. 

Jon - 00:13:56: Very cool. And for those who are not as well versed in the landscape, what is the current state of the market? You talked about the other alternatives and maybe a little bit of color on why is it, why is it that way? And maybe why has it been that way?

Grant - 00:14:11: Yeah, so when you ask that question, like immediately I'm thinking, talk about protein and then immobilization. But first, I think it's important to talk about petrochemistry and biology just as an industrial tool and why it's failed. Petrochemistry is pretty powerful, right? Why is it powerful? Why do we have so many petroleum-derived products? I always say this thing. It's like, if it's not glass, concrete, or steel, likelihood is it's made out of some kind of petroleum source as a plastic or a petroleum derivative. And so why? Why? Because it's efficient. If you're trying to crack your oil into these different components, you're getting 100% yield of the things you want. So 100% volumetric yield out of a reactor. Think about that. And that 100% yield, if it had any error, let's say a 20% error, we've already learned how to take a foundry approach and put that 20% that's an error into another product that can be sold en masse. So the thing truly is 100% efficient. From a capital infrastructure. I build a reactor. The full volume is used for exactly what I want it to do and I have no waste, no purification, no nothing. It's just the chemical I like. In biology, it's very different. We're working in water, right? You're thinking about yeast in sugary water to make a beer. Only 7% of it ends up as alcohol if you're lucky and you're drinking a Belgian beer. But the point is, you don't pay for the reactor to be 100% efficient. You pay with biology for the reactor to be 7% efficient. Maybe better if it's highly genetically engineered. But even if it's highly genetically engineered, you're not going over 50% efficiency, which means you've got to distill water. You've got to heat it, pull the water off. You've got a lot of problems that come from working with biology. And this is where the industry is today. It's looking at highly efficient petrochemistry and highly inefficient biology that just doesn't seem to have the right tech stack to get around its fundamental problems of purification. And so here's where the future lies. It lies in highly efficient use of volume and space using biological components. And the way to do that is to strip the proteins from the organisms like yeast. Use those proteins in a reactor as a non-living biocatalyst. And this powdered substance that you can drop in a reactor will convert 100% of your feedstock to your downstream product. We can convert, this is not an actual equation, but I'm just going to go back to the example of the yeast. We could make 100% of the sugar into alcohol, but we need to have a very efficient first principles approach to building a biological system. And that's what cell-free is. That's what using proteins without cells allows you to do. The problem is the stability, but we've solved that. So that's where we're moving.

Jon - 00:16:53: Very cool. And you bring up petrochemicals, very big industry, very old industry. And you talk about reactor, there's a bunch of infrastructure that's built for it. How have you conceptualized to move society away, adopt this new novel concept, and getting away from this kind of incumbent technology that is petrochemicals? And what is the beachhead approach for Fabric Nano? And how do you get these folks on board with you?

Grant - 00:17:22: Yeah, I'll be extremely frank here that the beachhead approach cannot be the reactor. Reactors take a long time to build, even if they're highly efficient reactors. And so we're still looking at Fabric Nano on a multi-year horizon to getting our first chemicals produced out of a reactor. We have a partnership with a big company called Sumitomo Chemical Company. We're probably the first cell-free or protein-based company that's working with a large chemical commodity manufacturer to try to make biological solutions for big commodity markets. But we're still years out in those programs. And so although I'd say we can talk about that, that's not the beachhead market. Those markets, they're going to take off using cell-free technology because they have flow reactors or pipes that can be built at lower capex, lower cost, and filled with these biocatalysts that are able to produce 100% efficient products. But we're still far away from there. The B-chart markets for FabricNano, I think, are much more interesting from a scale and a distribution perspective because we've completely changed the narrative of where we want to operate over the last 12 months. Seeing the funds rate hiked up, seeing the cost of capital increase, we are doing reactor-based studies and we do lots of chemical synthesis, but we're also now building biocatalyst products that can be decentralized in their use. So what do I mean by that? There are biocatalysts, little proteins, that do work for you every single day and you don't even know they're there. Examples of this, oh, there's like so many examples and I love that John's laughing because he knows all the examples, but the examples of this are plentiful. When you look at your detergent and you're thinking about a bio-based detergent, what's a bio-based detergent? It's a bunch of proteins that have been extracted and then can be used to, to eat up dirt stains, blood stains, grass stains off of clothes. We already use these to run very low energy, very energy efficient and therefore climate friendly laundry loads. And so FabricNano is looking at applications like this where you can take protein, build a new application of that protein using immobilization, but then put that protein into a reactor. It's not really a reactor. It's just the drum of your washing machine. It's a decentralized reactor that FabricNano doesn't have to pay for. And so we've got lots of programs and products that fit this mold. How do we build new applications and new products, but mitigate the catbacks that usually goes with building reactors? So we're looking at decentralized in situ applications of biocatalysts, your washing machine, maybe even for human health, maybe also for agriculture. There's a lot of products we're going to announce this next year and we're really excited about a lot of them.

Jon - 00:20:09: That's awesome. And it sounds like you guys are tackling it from all the angles where it's like exactly what you said. It doesn't have to be, we're not trying to like win over petrochemicals as like the first approach. It seems like you're going kind of to something where it seems to be more CPG oriented and less integrated into every fabric of society. Is that your go-to market and kind of commercialization strategy is up market and a little bit of down market?

Grant - 00:20:32: The places where the margins can be the best for a company like ours today is not in trying to engage four or five counterparties to build a chemical reactor. We would love to do that. And we have our eye on that prize five years out. And we want to help some of these big chemical companies reduce their 10% greenhouse gas global emissions. We need to help those companies. And so our platform is always building for the end chemical synthesis use case. But what we're also building is we're also building these types of biocatalyst products that should be in the common person's home, as you mentioned, like CPG. You know, most of the cleaning fluid we use is petroleum derived, right? Most of the stuff you spray is coming from some petrochemical plant somewhere. Why can't we spray proteins to do chemistry for us? Why can't we take the concepts that have already been proven for the laundry machine and are already a huge business? Like a $15 billion business in like detergents. And most of that's bio-based or a lot of that's bio-based. But we haven't really made the move to more applications. And the reason is that we don't know how proteins behave. To the mission of Fabric Nano, we don't currently use enzymes that work. And so we're trying to get enzymes to work in those applications by knowing how they interact with surfaces.

Jon - 00:21:51: Sick. I'm stoked because I'm usually an optimist, but there are aspects of this kind of inertia and pessimism inertia when I think about how big the problem is of these petrochemicals. And look, petrochemicals have made the world what it is, right? Plastic is important, even though it is terrible for the environment and microplastics in your body are terrible. But the world runs on petrochemical and the lifestyle that we live right now wouldn't be what it is without it, but it is unsustainable and terrible for the planet and human health. So I get incredibly fired up hearing about what Fabric Nano is doing and what you and your team are doing for everyone, frankly.

Grant - 00:22:30: The key bit there is that the consumer cares and the business cares too, but the business has such a big problem with CapEx that it will take decades to get off the reliance on petrochemicals. We have to start now, but in the near term, we need to have things like carbon sequestration programs. We need to have things like consumers that can help in these causes that can use less petroleum-derived chemicals in the home. There are things that consumers can adopt and those price points make sense and those products have good margin and Fabric Nano and other startups should be attacking those markets. But we do need to bear in mind that the elephant in the room is the 10-year mission to get real chemical companies to build plants. But we will need Fed Funds to come down from where it is now, over the next two to three years for that to happen. You do need the right environment to spur this change financially. We're not in it right now. Even though there's a lot of innovation and investment in R&D that's happening at Fabric Nano and at global clients around the world, there is not enough of a financial incentive to do these changes right now. I do believe that they delayed by a year or two because of the inflation that we experienced as a result of the Ukraine war and other things.

Jon - 00:23:45: Totally, and the capital market is very important here, you know, and the past couple of years have been rough for exactly all the reasons that we've listed out. What has been your strategy for navigating this? Any tips for other founders who are navigating it to bring this innovative technology to life?

Grant - 00:24:01: Build a visionary platform that attacks a $5 trillion market like we are, but don't assume that people will pay for 10 years for you to get there. You need to make more, right? And I think every startup got a rude awakening in the end of 2021, 2022, and it stopped being build for the future and started being build for the future, but build a sustainable business that can get you to that future because you can't rely on venture capital to get you there the entire way. And I think that that's fair. Like there's nothing incorrect about that, but we all need to take that message on board that keep your visionary future. Is it delayed by having waypoints and stop points that make sense? Probably not delayed, probably accelerated by having to really discipline on making profit on earlier go-to-market beachhead markets. So this is a good thing for the industry because these companies will become self-sufficient. I hope the Valbergman is self-sufficient by the end of 2025. That's a big goal. We have runway 2025, but we're hoping that like this year becomes a year where we can really start to say we're a functioning business that generates products that people use in the home to detoxify the home.

Jon - 00:25:07: I'd love to hear that. And looking at your business through a lens of like efficiency and sustainability, it's critically important. Burning the candle at both ends is not a sustainable practice. So looking forward to the next year, you're talking about 2024, 2025, what's in store for Fabric Nano in the next year or two?

Grant - 00:25:25: I believe you'll see sometime around this podcast getting launched a few products that are going to market for us. They may be successful. They may be flopped. But we got to launch products and we're going to launch products in 2024. So you can expect multiple products on market. We've taken an entirely scalable approach to building these immobilized enzyme biocatalysts. And so they are available. I'm not giving too much away here. We are making thousands of kilos of these enzymes immobilized today, and they will be in market. We just have to make sure they perform properly and that those products are acceptable to consumers and that those products are priced appropriately to make money on them. And that's the exciting part is like by really forcing the discipline, we're able to talk about scale. We're able to talk about real revenue generation for the first time. And I believe that pressure and innovation can come from both free money, but also from real discipline. And so we've gotten a little bit of both in our lifetime which is really nice because you can see the two modalities of how innovation can proceed.

Jon - 00:26:29: Absolutely. I love that. Like, look, you don't want to go too far in either way. Like exactly what you said. The ZERP days and the Fed Runs Right Up days, it's like they're different modes of thinking, but both have their pros and cons. But having a little bit of both and taking the best of both is important. And I'm super stoked for your guys' upcoming product launches. And I hope everyone stays tuned. It's a really exciting time for Synvile.

Grant - 00:26:53: I would love concluding notes here about the company. Most people don't even know that this industry exists, protein immobilizing onto surfaces. I would say that this is the dark horse in industrial bio, and people should start getting familiar with it. Evergano's got an interesting platform to bring it out. You know, we study the protein, we evolve the protein, we study the surface, and we study high throughput of the interaction layer. But at the same time, we need people to take an interest in this industry as a whole. And so there's a lot of work we're doing to try to educate at conferences over the next few months to quarters, just to get everyone to see how powerful this tech is and how necessary it is for real change. Like we talked about earlier, Patrick Hemmer, she's got to go. So biology today doesn't work. Biology cell-free should work, but it needs this type of solution. And so we really need to start talking about what that tech stack has to look like. And anyone who's interested following this podcast should just get in touch with Fabricano because you can talk your ear off all day about purging immobilization and how we've got a cool system and a great system to do it.

 Jon - 00:27:59: Hell yeah. Well, Grant, thank you for your time. You've been very generous. And there are two traditional closing questions that we have on the podcast. So the first one is, would you like to give any shout outs to anyone who's supported you throughout your career?

Grant - 00:28:11: Yeah, I'd love to get loads of shout outs. It's basically every mentor I've ever had and mentors I continue to have. So grateful to everyone at Harvard Medical, first and foremost, and people who are at the big transitions in my career, right? Family is in addition to that. There are people at Cooper Union, a guy named Thomas Sime, old school banker, who helped me get into economics and taught me what I should talk about when I'm talking to the Fed. The guy had a great expression. He goes, and I'd love to continue this. A trend is a trend until it's not. A great expression. The guy loved it and I love it. And everyone I've ever told that he loves it. He's so right. A trend is a trend until it's not. And folks I've already talked about on this call, but great friends really been there. And I give this talk every year in Italy because one of my friends is a professor at Bocconi now. Name's Garrett. And so I go to Bocconi every year and I give this talk about psychological safety. And if you're going to be a founder, you got to embrace the people around you that are there when you're having your worst day emotionally. And I think that, the key thing to do is to move away from this version of the founder as this like icon. You know, Steve Jobs didn't have a family, like kind of disowned his family. Everyone does it a lot. People don't do it a lot. A lot of people have a lot of support. And Jeff Bezos, people love him, hate him. He had a lot of support on the way up. You know, people like Elon Musk, a lot of support on the way up. A lot of founders have a lot of support. It's not a shame to engage your family and your friends to support you in times of difficulty. So like open up and be really emotional with the people that support you. Hopefully that's a good closing note.

 Jon - 00:29:43: I mean, it absolutely is. If you can give any advice to your 21 year old self, what it would be.

Grant - 00:29:49: Yeah, I think you just have to follow your curiosity. So it's the management philosophy we go with here. We're learning cutting edge things for protein immobilization. We are pushing the boundaries of what people understand is possible in industrial bio. We're building unique platforms and trying to educate the world about them. But I think that it all stems from curiosity. And so if I could go back to my 20 year old self and say, you know, you're a 21 year old, don't feel like you have to pick your path right now. And I'm happy that I've been able to pick different paths and I think that most people should think about the options that they have in front of themselves. A family that's willing to take you in for three months, you got a couch, take a bigger risk, right? This is the time to take it. When your parents can support you, if your friends can support you, some people don't have that luxury, but if you have that luxury, lean into it. It's not a shame to end up back at home, right? Like this is the mindset. And so be curious, be risk taking and have the right support so that when the risks don't go your way, you have the emotional backup to eat.

 Jon - 00:30:46: Absolutely. I don't know any better place to round things out. So Grant, thank you for the time. You've been super generous. Again, we can go on for hours. So maybe we do another set, another series, or maybe do it over a beer or something. Grant, thanks again.

Grant - 00:30:59: Yeah, maybe we catch up some other time. Absolutely. I really enjoyed it, Jon, and would love to talk to you again soon. Thanks for having me on.

 Jon - 00:31:06: Yeah. No, thank you for taking the time. I'll talk to you again soon.

Grant - 00:31:09: Yeah. Thanks, Jon.

Outro - 00:31:12: That's all for this episode of the Biotech Startups Podcast. We hope you enjoyed our three-part series with Grant Aarons. Be sure to tune into our next series where we chat with Quin Wills, CSO and co-founder at Ochre Bio, a pioneering biotechnology company developing RNA therapies for chronic liver diseases. Using a combination of genomic deep phenotyping, precision RNA medicine, medicine and testing in live human donor livers, Ochre is developing therapies for important liver health challenges from increasing donor liver supply to reducing cirrhosis complications. Quin is also a highly accomplished academic with a medical degree from the University of Witwatersrand and doctoral degrees from Cambridge and Oxford in comp bio, mathematics and statistical genomics. In addition to his academic accomplishments, Quin also co-founded Simugen and has worked at UCL, the Mayo Clinic and Novo Nordisk before he went on to co-found Ochre Bio. Quin's diverse experiences offer a wealth of insights that everyone can draw inspiration from. The Biotech Startups Podcast is produced by Excedr. Don't want to miss an episode? Search for the Biotech Startups Podcast wherever you get your podcasts and click subscribe. Excedr provides research labs with equipment leases on founder-friendly terms to support paths to exceptional outcomes. To learn more, visit our website, On behalf of the team here at Excedr, thanks for listening. The Biotech Startups podcast provides general insights into the life science sector through the experiences of its guests. The use of information on this podcast or materials linked from the podcast is at the user's own risk. The views expressed by the participants are their own and are not the views of Excedr or sponsors. No reference to any product, service or company in the podcast is an endorsement by Excedr or its guests.