Novo Holdings invests EUR 86 million in 21st.BIO, a new bioindustrial scale-up company building on technology base from Novozymes

December 21, 2021 - 5 min read

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK — December 21, 2021. Novo Holdings, a leading international life sciences investor, today announced a significant investment in 21st.BIO A/S – a new Danish bioindustrial scale-up company.

Established in 2020, 21st.BIO has been founded with a mission to support bioindustrial companies globally in upscaling from molecule innovation to large-scale production to be able to meet market demands and thereby advance the green transition globally. The focus areas of 21st.BIO include producing proteins and peptides that can be utilised for the food, materials and agricultural industries. It is estimated that as much as 60% of the physical inputs to the global economy could be produced biologically.

Today, much of the transformational bioindustrial innovation is never commercialised because of the challenges that occur when production has to be scaled from the lab processes to full-scale manufacturing. The production environment in which the molecule was originally developed is often unable to deliver the right quality and at acceptable cost levels.

A common issue facing innovators in industrial biotech is also a lack of access to competencies and facilities to develop a molecule production process that can deliver the desired quality at the cost levels required to compete effectively.

Thomas Schmidt, co-founder, and CEO of 21st.BIO, said: “Many brilliant industrial biotech ideas never succeed, because production challenges result in too high price points for the final product. Hence, a vast number of otherwise great innovations do not make it to a scale at which they are truly relevant for the world. At 21st.BIO, we can help establish the right technology for producing novel molecules and peptides and hence help innovators successfully make the difficult step from innovation to big business and impact for the planet. We have gained access to a selection of Novozymes’ unique technology platform on commercial terms, which means that a success for 21st.BIO is also a success for Novozymes.”

The technology platform of 21st.BIO originates from selected parts of Novo-zymes platform, which has been developed and perfected over the past 40+ years.

Novozymes provides a co-exclusive licence to 21st.BIO within certain boundaries of applications, ensuring Novozymes’ ability to continue its leadership position in the areas where Novozymes operates. 

Claus Crone Fuglsang, Executive Vice President of Novozymes, commented: “A strong industrial biotech environment, supported by enabling start-ups to bring innovation to scale, will help build future markets. The entire industry will benefit from a thriving development of new biological solutions. This is an opportunity to leverage our technology in a different context and enable a transition to-wards a biobased society and create further value – also for Novozymes' share-holders.”

New manufacturing site on the horizon

Novo Holdings is investing EUR 86 million in 21st.BIO. Søren Møller, Managing Partner of Novo Seeds, Novo Holdings, will join the Board of Directors.

“I am very pleased to join 21st.BIO on its mission to help more biological solutions reach the market and thereby enable the acceleration of the green transition. The technology that 21st..BIO offers addresses a critical, unmet global need, and I see great potential for synergies and partnerships between 21st.BIO and other Novo Holdings portfolio companies in the industrial biotech sector,” said Søren Møller.

21st.BIO currently operates in Denmark and California. The access to selected parts of Novozymes R&D platform and the investment by Novo Holdings will enable the company to expand its capacity further.

“With the access to a selected part of Novozymes technology platform and financing from Novo Holdings, 21st.BIO will be able to grow and to establish the first manufacturing site to serve our customers globally. Further, with both Novo Holdings and Novozymes on board, we are getting access to a broader network and knowledge base that is very advantageous,” Thomas Schmidt said.

The technology explained

21st.BIO helps customers optimising and developing the appropriate expression platform for large-scale production of their particular molecule by testing the molecule using various expression platforms, such as fungi, yeast or bacteria. When the right expression platform has been identified, 21st.BIO draws on its comprehensive strain bank and selects and optimises the best-performing strains. This leads to an optimised production platform that enables clients to produce their product at commercially attractive costs and quantities.

To Novozymes, the opportunity base will materialise as 21st.BIO succeeds with its projects, and revenue will be generated from licensing income as technologies are commercialised.

About Novo Holdings A/S
Novo Holdings A/S is a private limited liability company wholly owned by the Novo Nordisk Foundation. It is the holding company of the Novo Group, comprising Novo Nordisk A/S and Novozymes A/S, and is responsible for managing the Novo Nordisk Foundation’s assets.

Novo Holdings is recognised as a leading international life science investor, with a focus on creating long-term value. As a life science investor, Novo Holdings provides seed and venture capital to development-stage companies and takes significant ownership positions in growth and well-established companies. Novo Holdings also manages a broad portfolio of diversified financial assets. Further information:

About the Novo Nordisk Foundation
The Novo Nordisk Foundation is an independent Danish foundation with corporate interests. It has two objectives: 1) to provide a stable basis for the commercial and research activities of the companies in the Novo Group; and 2) to support scientific, humanitarian and social causes.

The vision of the Foundation is to contribute significantly to research and development that improves the lives of people and the sustainability of society. Since 2010, the Foundation has donated more than DKK 30 billion (€4 billion), primarily for research at public institutions and hospitals in Denmark and the other Nordic countries. Read more at

About Novozymes A/S
Novozymes is the world leader in biological solutions. Together with customers, partners, and the global community, we improve industrial performance while preserving the planet's resources and helping build better lives. As the world's largest provider of enzyme and microbial technologies, our bioinnovation enables higher agricultural yields, low-temperature washing, energy-efficient production, renewable fuel, and many other benefits that we rely on today and in the future. We call it Rethink Tomorrow.

For more information, please contact:

Novo Holdings
Marie-Louise Jersin, Senior Communications Partner, +45 3049 4957,

Lina Danstrup, Head of Media Relations, +45 3077 0552,

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