E’ville Biz: Wareham Pitches New Overland Campus; UPSIDE in Legal Battle with Co-Founder; Zymergen, Amyris & Gritstone Pursuing Covid-19 Vaccines

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An aggregate of business-related news stories applicable to Emeryville.

Upside Foods, who just recently debuted their new Marketplace ‘EPIC’ facility, is already involved in a legal battle. According to reports, one of their co-founders was abruptly fired and is being sued by the company for the theft of trade secrets. The story was also covered by Wired.com.

Meanwhile, a life science “arms race” is heating up in Emeryville with Wareham, Oxford/CCRP and BioMed Realty all pursuing new campuses in the city. Wareham, whose last Emeryville project was the EmeryStation West on Horton, is looking to demo the warehouse along Overland between 62nd & 63rd adjacent to the Post Office. They’re hoping to gain council approval with the inclusion of affordable housing units to satisfy a flexible community benefit requirement.

Emeryville Life Science companies continue to play a pivotal role in the fight against Covid-19 with three companies working on vaccines. Zymergen, Amyris & Gritstone have all forged partnerships to pursue new vaccines for the virus.

Upside Foods co-founders Nick Genovese, left, and Uma Valeti, right, share a cultured chicken tasting in a still from the documentary Meat the Future. Between them stands KC Carswell, center, another executive who suddenly left the company earlier this year.

Why did Upside Foods fire its co-founder just weeks after his team’s scientific triumph?

By Joe Fassler

On April 2, employees of Upside Foods, a leading cell-cultured meat startup, received a strange companywide email. It included a digital “watermark”—a security measure that would tell the company exactly when and by whom it had been read. The message was a surprise: Nicholas Genovese, an Upside executive who was one of its three original co-founders, was no longer with the company. No reason was given for the abrupt departure.

In fact, Genovese had been unceremoniously fired, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, who say he also wasn’t kept in an an advisory role. If the email itself was strange, the timing was downright bizarre. At Upside, Genovese, a distinguished and widely respected cell biologist with several key patents under his belt, had led a small, three-person innovation team internally referred to as “Blue Sky.” Under his leadership, Blue Sky had very recently achieved a significant scientific breakthrough: a novel cell-culture device that could produce lab-grown animal cells better than anything else Upside had achieved before. The project wasn’t relevant to Upside’s more immediate plans for commercialization, but it was scientifically significant. According to court documents reviewed by The Counter, one employee involved with the project said she felt the invention was a transformative step forward—a scientific advancement that was worthy, she said, of a Nobel Prize.

Read more on The Counter

Rendering: Wareham Properties

Emeryville considers pitch for 300,000 square feet of new life sciences space

By Sarah Klearman

The latest proposed addition to Wareham Development’s EmeryStation campus comes with an unusual attribute: the promise of affordable housing.

The San Rafael-based developer has proposed a five-story, 300,000-square-foot life sciences building and a seven-story, 496-spot garage at 1580 62nd St. in Emeryville. The four-acre property, across the street from part of the existing EmeryStation campus, is currently home to several one-story warehouse buildings comprising about 80,000 square feet and an 83,000-square-foot mixed-use building built in the 1930s that includes 41 live-work units, according to documents from the city of Emeryville.

Read more on SF Business Times (paywall may apply)

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Gritstone secures funding for COVID-19 vaccine against variants

Gritstone bio Inc (GRTS.O) said on Tuesday it had entered into a funding agreement of up to $20.6 million with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to advance its vaccine program against COVID-19 variants, sending its shares up 2.6% before the bell.

Gritstone’s vaccine is based on self-amplifying mRNA technology, which uses the body’s own machinery to make antigenic protein rather than injecting the antigen into the body.

Read more on Reuters.com

Amyris Emeryville Office (Photo: longelectric.com)

Amyris takes bite out of sharks with Covid vaccine joint venture

By Ron Leuty

Amyris Inc.’s long work on synthesizing a shark oil commonly used in cosmetics landed it a deal with an ambitious developer of a Covid-19 vaccine.

The Emeryville-based synthetic biology company (NASDAQ: AMRS) entered a 50-50 joint venture with Southern California’s ImmunityBio Inc. (NASDAQ: IBRX), it said Monday. The companies didn’t disclose preliminary terms of a binding term sheet but said a definitive agreement should be completed in the next month.

Read more on SF Business Times (paywall may apply)

Photo: Lipo Ching / SF Business Times

Zymergen ditches products, targets agriculture, vaccines, drugs as cost-cutting continues

By Ron Leuty

Synthetic biology company Zymergen Inc. will stop most of its microbe-manufactured electronics films work — a big reason investors lined up for its $575 million IPO in April — as part of a massive, ongoing review of operations.

The company (NASDAQ: ZY), which has cut 220 of its nearly 800 jobs in the past two months, said Wednesday the review launched in August will be largely finished by the end of the year. However, the company added, restructuring of its massive real estate leases in Emeryville may extend into first quarter 2022.

Read more on SF Business Times (paywall may apply)

Additional Emeryville-related business news stories:

Troubled Zymergen renegotiates loan, cuts 100 more jobs and loses co-founder | BizJournals.com

The cell-cultivated meat revolution is starting, and these Bay Area startups are ready | BizJournals.com

Shiru raises $17 million to develop novel plant-based ingredients | www.foodbusinessnews.net

Moderna Moves Into Gene Editing Space with Metagenomi R&D Collab | BioSpace.com

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Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

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