Boragen, the first start-up to launch from a new business accelerator focused on agriculture technology, has raised $10 million in its first round of venture funding. The firm will use the money to develop synthetic fungicides based on a group of boron-containing compounds.
Cofounder and chief science officer Tony Liu, a synthetic chemist, first zeroed in on a group of compounds called benzoxaboroles while screening for pharmaceutical leads. Benzoxaboroles have been used in topical antibiotics and antifungals.
“Boron is a unique building block that allows a lot of freedom to modulate geometry and charge,” Liu points out. “You can fine-tune the reactivity by changing what you put around it for a specific use.”
Boragen’s lead candidate boasts a new mode of fungus-killing action, which will help prevent the emergence of resistant organisms, says CEO John W. Dombrosky. And it can be used in tiny amounts when combined with common fungicides, he adds.
“We’re really only at the beginning of being able to exploit boron chemistry” Dombrosky says.
Agriculture has attracted increasing interest from venture capital firms in the past two years. In 2016, Dombrosky and Alexandria Venture Investments formed the AgTech Accelerator in Research Triangle Park, N.C., a sprawling research hub for several big agchem firms.
AgTech Accelerator’s partners—and Boragen investors—include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Arch Venture Partners, Flagship Pioneering, Bayer, and Syngenta Ventures.