Jun 26, 2020Gates-led funding spurs new chemical company to focus on developing nations
Aiming to kick-start the crop protection industry’s stalled R&D pipelines to develop novel, safer products for the global farming community, Enko Chem Inc. publicly launched after securing $45 million in a Series B round of financing, bringing its total funding raised to date to $66 million.
Led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the latest round attracted a strong mix of existing (Anterra Capital and Rabo Food & Agri Innovation Fund) and new investors (Finistere Ventures, Novalis LifeSciences, Germin8 Ventures, TO Ventures Food).
“We’re committed to ensuring that smallholder farming communities in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have access to affordable innovations that can safely and sustainably control crop pests and diseases, which are likely to intensify and spread into new areas due to climate change,” said Vipula Shukla, senior program officer for agriculture at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Smallholder farmers are the backbone of the agricultural economy in these regions, so working with innovative companies like Enko Chem to equip them with better ways to fight these threats is crucial to building their resilience to climate impacts on food and feed production.”
The crop protection industry is struggling to face critical challenges including rising regulatory standards, higher performance requirements, and growing pest resistance. At a time when more than 600 pest species have developed some form of resistance and threaten yield losses of up to 40%, industry R&D pipelines have suffered a declining rate of innovation and have failed to deliver high-value new products when producers and consumers need it the most. Enko is pioneering a new approach by integrating complementary technologies to develop improved products that meet or exceed the safety and sustainability demands of farmers, consumers and regulators around the globe.
“Resistance issues have been plaguing agriculture production for years, but the industry has been slow to innovate. Delivering safer, lower use rate products that provide good returns for farmers needs to be the rule and not the exception,” said Jacqueline Heard, CEO of Enko. “We are leveraging powerful drug discovery technologies to build a deep pipeline of solutions at unprecedented speed as we strive to lead this $60 billion industry into a new era of sustainable agriculture. We are thrilled that our novel approach, which builds in safety measures from the start to keep us ahead of future needs, has attracted support from this top-tier group of investors.”
Founded in 2017 and incubated by Anterra Capital, Enko will use the funds to expand its technology platform and rapidly develop its pipeline of novel crop protection products. Using advanced pharmaceutical discovery and predictive analytics tools, the company is actively advancing novel modes of action through its platform, and its first solutions are progressing toward field testing and regulatory trials. In support of this mission, Enko continues to cultivate research collaboration and strategic partnerships with industry leaders.
Marijn Dekkers, founder and chairman of Novalis LifeSciences, and Spencer Maughan, co-founder and partner at Finistere Ventures, will join Enko’s board of directors to support the company’s pursuit of new modes of actions for novel small molecule solutions that will revitalize the industry’s stagnant crop protection pipeline.