The increasing concern on environmental issues and climate change is what has led our team and many other research projects to develop new strategies to combat these problems. We have seen rising unrest throughout the world when it comes to observing that fires have increased in frequency and intensity over the last years1. Besides, -with global warming knocking our doors- people have started to worry about the composition of some types of foams used to combat fires2. Therefore, our team decided to take action on the matter and established an entrepreneurship committee to help introduce our potentially beneficial product into society. To achieve all of this, we also backed ourselves in activities and mentorships which helped us strengthen our entrepreneurial side.
Synbiofoam is a startup interested in the development and application of an ecological foam for ABC and forest fires, based on synthetic biology and biotechnology, which can be distributed to use mainly by civil associations as well as companies in the environmental sector.
Our mission is to develop, apply, and distribute profitable, highly competitive and environmentally friendly ABC and forest fire-fighting biofoams based on synthetic biology to be widely used by civil associations and the private sector.
Our vision is to be one of the leaders in the migration of harmful industrial products towards more environmentally-friendly ones by introducing our product into the market of fire fighting strategies.
Teamwork is essential for the successful development of any business. Although all of the members of the team have contributed to the entrepreneurial sector of the project, the following people are the ones holding a key position within the committee.
Through the year, we’ve been adjusting our product based on our market’s necessities, which we are able to know thanks to our stakeholders’ feedback. Thus, we have heard opinions from potential users (members of firefighting departments), regulatory institutions (such as Parques y Vida Silvestre de Nuevo León our and the National Forestry Commission, CONAFOR for its acronym in Spanish) and people involved in the market, either in the technical part of the production or the sale and introduction, as well as experts from genetic engineering, synthetic biology, industrial upscaling, and regulatory policy. All the feedback received is documented in our Integrated Human Practices section.
MINIMAL VIABLE PRODUCT
Due to the pandemic, we haven’t had the opportunity to go to the laboratory and start our experimental work. Despite this, we have made all the theoretical work needed for the further production of our MVP; all these considerations have been made according to Mexican and international standards on the product presentation and performance3,4. Having this in mind, we plan that our foam concentrate -which would contain the ranaspumins, surfactin and polysaccharides- will be offered to the final users in the form of containers (e.g. 20 liter capacity) to meet our client preferences of foam consumption. The container of the foam will have a label in which the description of the product, the concentration, and additional indications will be given.
Although we still do not have performed experimental analysis to fully determine how the final approach for the application method will be, we describe the expected procedure to follow when employing the foam to cease a fire with the help of a pump.
Using data obtained through our mathematical modeling and taking into account the genetic regulation of the production of our foam components, we were able to elaborate an scaling-up plan. Although biotechnological processes are not cheaper than current methods, we found out a big area of opportunity due to the lack of environmentally responsible foams, which in addition to our constant search for processes optimization, could decrease costs in a long-term view. Costs reduction is the goal that will be reached when doing experimental tests, this is further explained in our Proposed Implementation section.
Along with the development of the idea of the product, we needed to settle certain aspects for our project in order to make a clear business model of a science-based entrepreneurship. To achieve that, we made a deep analysis where we identified our main concerns about regulation, manufacturing, safety, scalability, and the target market we want to impact.
To estimate the initial prices, we have considered main 4 early values based on economist Milton Friedman's strategy on the theory of money5, including: constant and variable costs, a recovery margin of 25%, cost of production and the final public offering price. These have led us to calculate a cost of the foam in $505.00 (UNIT) US and an initial investment of $31,794.00* US
*It equals capital expenditures plus working capital requirement plus after-tax proceeds from assets disposed off or available for use elsewhere
The global firefighting foam market size was valued at $856.3 million in 2019 and is anticipated to generate $1,141.5 million by 2027. The rise in awareness toward presence of Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in firefighting foam contaminating drinking water sources have led to introduction of acts and laws that restrict the usage of fluorine-based firefighting foam use.
The activities regarding fluorine-free firefighting foam is expected to offer lucrative opportunities for industry growth6,7.
For fluorine-free firefighting foams, it has been estimated that at least some 7,000 tonnes, but probably as much as around 9,000 tonnes, are sold in the EU annually. The main alternatives used are based on hydrocarbon surfactants and detergents. North America firefighting foam market is analyzed across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The region holds a significant market share of firefighting foam owing to presence of big market players in the U.S., and Canada8.
CONTEXT, CHALLENGES AND PERSPECTIVES
The United States Government and the European Union have banned the use of firefighting foams composed of fluorinated chemicals9,10.
Several Fluorine Free Foams (FFF) available in the market have already met various internationally accepted certifications and approvals, including the International Civil Aviation Organization Level B, an internal oil industry standard known as LASTFIRE and the International Maritime Organization MSC.1/Circ. 1312.
The main challenge is that conventional foams and FFF do not perform identically, but firefighters can adjust their tactics to ensure the effectiveness of fluorine free foams. Nevertheless, FFF are already being used successfully by airports, militaries, and oil and chemical companies across the globe.
The current market can be divided into 5 main areas8. In order to guarantee a wide spectrum of potential customers, the corresponding sector and Mexican companies that already have the channels and background in the use of fire fighting foams, but have not yet fully implemented the use of fluorine-free firefighting foams, have been described in the following table.
With all the information shown before, we made up a business model for the future implementation of our project. This has been carried out throughout our incubation process, which has been ongoing during the year.
Nowadays, we are in an incubation process offered by an entrepreneurship contest where we participated: TigerTank 2020. We are having guidance and advice on elaborating the business model, identifying, approaching, and analyzing the market, among other aspects. In addition to that, we have participated in some other entrepreneurship competitions, which has helped us a lot to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the project.
It is an entrepreneurship competition from our university, which seeks projects that use technology to tackle a market and social problem. Along with another 15 teams, we were selected, from a larger group of 80+ projects, to be introduced into an incubation process to receive further guidance from our mentor, César Sánchez, and develop our project.
Starting date: April 2020
Ending date: Still ongoing
Result:: We are in semi-finals stage
BIOHUNT ENTREPRENEURSHIP COMPETITION
BioHunt is an entrepreneurship competition that rewards projects with a biological basis. We participated in the “Star” category, directed towards projects which still do not have the company itself established.
Starting date: September 18th, 2020
Ending date: September 26th, 2020
Result obtained:: Third place obtained out of more than 20 teams.
It is an entrepreneurship competition, which encompasses the whole Latin American region, seeking to boost projects based on science and technology. We are already enrolled in the “Pitch” category, where the grand prize is $5,000 USD.
Starting date: June 2020
Ending date: Still ongoing
Result obtained:: Application submitted.
One of our concerns is to get to know more about business processes for us to develop a viable plan. Having this in mind, we decided to participate in different activities with the aim of learning more about this area and be more aware of the nowadays situation for bioentrepreneurship.
ASSISTANCE TO CONGRESSES, COURSES AND SEMINARS
Through the year we attended some entrepreneurship activities, such as the BioLaunch Entrepreneurship Congress, UNAM’s Technology Readiness Level Seminar, and WIPO’s Intellectual Property DL-101 Course. All this with the aim of knowing several experts' experiences and knowledge, understanding concepts and legal frameworks and learning about the appropriate legal terms and procedures involved in the patenting of a product. The things we learned have helped us to determine in which phase of the project we are in and how we can approach possible investors to obtain fundings for our project.
We seek to have investments as the project continues to develop. We have had funding that has helped us to both participate in the iGEM competition and carry out experimental work. In these initial stages of our project, the team has participated in many entrepreneurship competitions seeking to obtain both monetary support and advice to continue with our project. In a near future, we expect to establish contact with other potential investors who see our project as beneficial to them and society in general. For now, we have had contact with stakeholders, and one of them in particular is Amerex, who has offered us an "indirect form" of investment. The representative from the Amerex distribution center in Monterrey offered help with facilities and equipment to test the quality of the firefighting foam.
LETTER OF INTENT
As a formalization of the agreement reached with Amerex’s regional representative, we have issued a letter of intent, which is shown below. This represents an enormous support for the further development and commercialization of the project.
 Wright, J., DeLaMater, D., Simha, A., Ury, E., & Ficken, C. (2020). Changes in Prescribed Fire Frequency Alter Ecosystem Carbon Dynamics. Ecosystems, 1-12.
 Peshoria, S., Nandini, D., Tanwar, R. K., & Narang, R. (2020). Short‑chain and long‑chain fluorosurfactants in firefighting foam: a review. Environmental Chemistry Letters 18:1277–1300. ENVIRONMENTAL CHEMISTRY LETTERS.
 Secretaría de Economía. (2018). PROYECTO de Norma Oficial Mexicana PROY-NOM-202-SCFI-2017, Combate de incendios-Extintores portátiles-Capacidad de extinción, funcionamiento y construcción-Especificaciones y métodos de prueba. Diario Oficial de la Federación. DOF:14/06/2018
 Secretaría de Economía. (2005). Norma Oficial Mexicana NOM-154-SCFI-2005, Equipo contra incendio-Extintores-Servicio de mantenimiento y recarga. Diario Oficial de la Federación. DOF: 21/11/2005
 Coghlan, R. T. (2015). The Theory of Money & Finance. Macmillan International Higher Education.
 Prasad, E. & Yamini, P. (2020) Firefighting Foam Market by Type (Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), Alcohol Resistant Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AR-AFFF), Protein Foam, Synthetic Detergent Foam, and Others), and End-Use Industry (Oil & Gas, Aviation, Marine, Mining, and Others):Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast, 2020–2027 [Available online]. Retrieved from: https://www.alliedmarketresearch.com/firefighting-foam-market
 Markets and Markets (2020) Firefighting Foam Market by Type (AFFF, AR-AFFF, PF, Synthetic Detergent Foam), End-use Industry (Oil & Gas, Aviation, Marine, Mining), Region (APAC, Europe, North America, Middle East & Africa, South America) - Global Forecast to 2023 [Available online]. https://www.marketsandmarkets.com/Market-Reports/firefighting-foam-market-136945116.html
 Nicol, L., et al. (2020). The use of PFAS and fluorine-free alternatives in fire-fighting foams. European Commission DG Environment. Final report No 07.0203/2018/791749/ENV.B.2
 European Chemicals Agency. (n.d.). Perfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFAS). Retrieved from https://echa.europa.eu/hot-topics/perfluoroalkyl-chemicals-pfas
 Environmental Protection Agency. (2020). EPA PFAS Action Plan: Program Update [PDF File]. United States. Retrieved from: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-01/documents/pfas_action_plan_feb2020.pdf