Insights from SynBioBeta 2023

June 06, 2023

Biotech leaders and trailblazers came together for a three day summit to shape the future of sustainable manufacturing ecosystems.

Nearly 1800 attendees descended on Oakland last month to attend the largest conference focused solely on synthetic biology: SynBioBeta. I had the pleasure of attending alongside several of my R&D colleagues; a highlight for me was kicking off the week by watching Caroline Hadfield, CEO, Rose Inc and Head of Product Innovation for Amyris participate on a panel, “SynBio Beauty: How the Personal Care Industry is Driving Performance and Sustainability.”

Moderated by Suzanne Lee, CEO & Founder of Biofabricate, Caroline and her fellow panelists (Amy Trejo, Open Innovation Manager for P&G; Suveen Sahib, Co-Founder & CEO, K18hair; and Shara Ticku CEO, C16 Biosciences) discussed synbio’s opportunity to impact consumers in a broad range of markets within beauty and personal care. They delved into meaty topics, like scale-up challenges brands face when adopting synbio, and what will it take to make bioengineered ingredients mainstream and affordable for the average person.

Caroline, who joined Amyris in 2015 as Senior Vice President, Personal Care, previously led Amyris’ B2B and B2C sales initiatives for our consumer cosmetic products and has held leadership positions in product development at companies like Bodyshop International and Sephora, was uniquely positioned to speak to about our experience scaling our powerhouse ingredient squalane, and its impact on both the beauty industry and consumers.

Throughout the rest of the week, several common themes emerged:

1. Companies still struggle with scale-up, manufacturing and product launches. Only a small handful of companies are just beginning to commercially scale production. Amyris’ Lab-to-Market™ approach is still a major differentiator, but the gap is closing.

2. Funding remains challenging for everyone. Several financial experts presented their views on the outlook for the sector and with much optimism. For example, biotech revenues continue to grow in the US and were at $550 billion in 2021 (>$100 B for biochemicals).

3. Human health is receiving much more attention (and funding!) thanks to the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (an independent entity within the National Institutes of Health) and its >$2.5B budget from the White House.

4. Amyris has played a huge part in shaping the synbio industry and continues to do so—I was thrilled to reunite with 13 ex-Amyrisians representing new companies from across the sector.

I’m passionate about the integration, development, and mentorship of multi-disciplinary teams to successfully deliver technology that will positively impact our world, and SynBioBeta provided an excellent opportunity for to network with both leaders and newcomers to the field of synthetic biology.


Derek Abbott is a Vice President in R&D and head of the Technical Program Management Office (TPMO) at Amyris. He joined the company in 2008 with an extensive background in microbial physiology, fermentation science, analytics, and biotechnology. 

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