In a groundbreaking moment at the Iowa State University’s Startup Factory Cohort 14 Demo Day on December 5, 2023, the spotlight shone brightly on the exceptional trio of Founders from the African hub of excellence in Biosciences (AfriBioHub). Joshua Magu, Harrison Waweru, and Maurine Mutua, all early-career scientists, took center stage as they passionately presented their innovative startup ventures. AfriBIOHub, a pivotal technology platform established under the ISAAA AfriCenter-led Feed the Future Striga-Smart Sorghum for Africa (SSSfA) project, stands as a beacon of biotechnological competence. Hosted in Kenyatta University, Kenya, the AfriBIOHub model is hinged on three interconnected goals: Facilitate production and transition of locally developed Genome Edited products and other agri-biotech innovations into commercial products; enhance capacity for routine genetic transformation and other new breeding innovations in African universities; and build local capacity for bio-entrepreneurship to ensure sustainability.

The trio projected African scientists’ desire for homegrown biotech solutions, pitching two visionary companies – Gentle Giants and DiaMol, respectively. Their endeavors are poised to revolutionize the local bio-manufacturing landscape, tackling challenges related to access, cost, and delivery-time associated with the importation of molecular biotechnology regents, key among these, enzymes. This momentous representation of AfriBIOHub at Cohort 14 Demo Day signifies a crucial milestone in forging a robust partnership between the implementing SSSfA project partners and Iowa State University’s Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship. Through this collaboration, a multitude of African bioentrepreneurs are set to reap the benefits of proven mentorship provided by ISU’s Startup Factory.

The ISU Startup Factory, nestled within the ISU Economic Development CORE Facility at the ISU Research Park, stands as a nurturing ground for startups, aiding researchers and inventors in charting a course towards realizing societal and economic impact of their cutting-edge innovations.

Over a 16-week program, the Founders received comprehensive training, resources, guidance, and access to a network of seasoned mentors, Alumni, and advisors at the Startup Factory. Since its inception in 2016, the Startup Factory has shepherded 125 participant companies through two program cohorts each year, with each cohort comprising 10 companies. Notably, three participant companies have already made successful exits, underlining the program’s efficacy in nurturing and propelling startups to success. We thank the ISU Startup Factory team (Peter Hong, Hannah Kirkendall and Donna Ramaeker-Zahn) for the opportunity to partner in this exciting journey!

You can watch the pitches at https://bit.ly/3RvFLLs.

For further information on AfriBIOHubs, contact; Dr Margaret Karembu, Feed the Future Striga Smart Sorghum for Africa project lead at: mkarembu@isaaa.org