“For too long, technological progress has been at the expense of our environment. Our team sees nature as the most sophisticated technology, Lionel Mora, CEO and co-founder of Neoplants, immediately states. It is important now to use our human talent through innovation, to see it as an ally and to work with it, rather than consuming it. To achieve this, he therefore envisioned, with his buddy Patrick Torbey, CTO in charge of R&D, an innovative product at the Entrepreneur First incubator at Station F in Paris: the eco-friendly 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 offering the first product in its range for pre-order in the first quarter of 2023: the Neo P1. This biotech facility is set to hit the world at CES in Las Vegas, where the two co-founders have planned to unveil it. “It is a breakthrough innovation that combines deeptech and biotech and is aimed at the general public. We don’t fit into any drawer,” Lionel Mora analyzes again. He is counting on this tech summit to spread his message: “Biology is the most advanced technology in the world and tomorrow it must be part of the solutions in the fight against global warming. »
“Working on a meaningful project with a positive impact”
The two bosses of the startup Neoplants met in September 2018 and the idea took shape immediately. “I learned to apply genome editing techniques, which allow you to change the genetics of an organism, adding or removing traits. I wanted to show that these tools have a positive impact on the world and people’s lives,” says Patrick Torbey, who has a PhD in genetics from the Ecole Normale Supérieure on Rue d’Ulm.
For his part, Lionel Mora came from 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 meaningful project with a positive impact. At that time, at Station F, we had very beautiful plants around us, and the clicking was very fast while we were talking. For us, purifying the air was the noblest and most powerful function one could give to plants. We never came back from that conversation. Neoplants was born.
A laboratory in Saint-Ouen is about to open
A four-year development then began for the two entrepreneurs, marked by a first fundraiser in the summer of 2019 and a second in the summer of 2021. “The beginnings were complicated, we had no resources, Patrick filled the laboratory students for research,” recalls Lionel mora An initial partnership with the Paris-Saclay Institute of Plant Biology allows them to move forward. “It was a real opportunity to be in daily contact with French public research teams and to benefit from the infrastructures 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, notably a Silicon Valley fund, True Ventures, which had never invested in a French start-up. Our main goal back then was to prove that our idea is technically feasible,” adds Lionel Mora. Two years later, Neoplants launches its second fundraising for a project that is about to be realized: the opening of its own headquarters in Saint-Ouen (Seine-Saint-Denis) and the construction of one of the most advanced biotechnology laboratories. “We are now almost 25 and it was important to us to plan in separate premises for the longer term,” the managing director continues to specify.
Why will Neo P1 not be available in France?
When they claim that their “neoplants” are actually tech products, the two entrepreneurs do not lose sight of their main goal. “Today we are developing the first generation of biotechnological systems that not only capture pollutants, but also eliminate them from the air. The idea is to use this first use case to develop the basic technologies and then move from indoors to outdoors, from air quality to climate,” they recall.
But at the moment it is impossible to find the Neo P1 in France in 2023, the first product with the Neoplants stamp is launched on the American market. “European regulation currently takes three and a half to four years from the submission of the approval file. What is an eternity for a box like us, regrets Patrick Torbey. We are two French founders, now with a lab and all R&D in France, we bring in talent from all over the world, but we can’t wait that long to commercialize our product. “Even if the French Tech Green20 program, in which we are involved, brings us a lot, it is much more pragmatic to establish ourselves in the United States, where, unlike the European Union, regulation is based only on scientific political voting occurs Game », adds Lionel Mora.
While awaiting the arrival of the Neo P1 on our side of the Atlantic, plant lovers who regularly kill them with too much or too little water can take inspiration from the Neoplants user experience. “We added a reservoir to the pot that has two functions: to maximize air exchange between the plant and the substrate and to be able to water independently for two weeks.” In short, the dream solution to reduce the mortality risk of our dear plants by 90 to 95% according to the experts from Neoplants.