A Bozeman biotechnology company founded on research conducted at Montana State University has raised $33 million in venture capital funds, the most substantial investment to date in an MSU spin-out. 

Sustainable Bioproducts is developing a new way to grow protein, sourced from a fungus known as MK7. The fungus was discovered in 2009 by the company’s co-founder Mark Kozubal, a 2010 MSU doctoral graduate who was researching extremophile organisms living in Yellowstone National Park’s volcanic springs. MSU then transferred its MK7-related intellectual property rights to the company in a commercialization agreement.

“MSU has been a great partner and we continue to collaborate on fundamental research through a NASA project,” said Thomas Jonas, CEO and co-founder of Sustainable Bioproducts, which also has offices in Chicago. “We have also hired several MSU graduates, which is a testament to the quality education provided here.”

Venture firm 1955 Capital led the investment round, which also included Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a climate-focused technology fund backed by a roster of billionaires that includes Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Microsoft’s Bill Gates. Other investors included ADM Ventures, the investing arm of Archer Daniels Midland Co.; Danone Manifesto Ventures, the venture-investing arm of French food and beverage company Danone, Lauder Partners; and the Liebelson family. 

NASA, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the state of Montana and MSU have provided financial and in-kind support to the company, which currently has more than 20 employees between Bozeman and Chicago.

Daniel Juliano, MSU’s associate director of technology licensing, said “We’re thrilled to see Sustainable Bioproducts taking fungus from volcanoes to the table.  And we’re glad to see a local company gaining national attention.”