Last Saturday, San Francisco-based start-up ZBiotics celebrated the launch of its first product in a fitting way: with a party. The ZBiotics team headed to a Mission District nightclub called Public Works and handed out shot-sized vials of its new probiotic drink. The vials were filled with bacteria that the company had genetically engineered to break down acetaldehyde—a molecule that lingers in the body after alcohol is metabolized.
Biotech’s latest target? The hangover.
ZBiotics began selling the drink online last week. It’s likely the world’s first genetically engineered probiotic, and the start-up isn’t bashful that it’s a genetically-modified organism, or GMO. Remarkably, the company was founded just three years ago and has raised only $3.3 million. The start-up can move fast since its probiotic is considered a supplement, not a drug, and thus doesn’t have to be proven effective in humans.
Numerous other biotech firms have collectively raised hundreds of millions of dollars to engineer or isolate bacteria intended to treat metabolic diseases and cancer. They need that money to conduct clinical trials and ultimately earn approval from the US FDA. ZBiotics is going straight to consumers.