Ucaneo: “We are convinced that synthetic biology will play a key role in mitigating climate change”

Founded in 2022, the start-up Ucaneo has a big vision: “Climate change is a global problem and needs to be tackled at scale. Our mission is to capture 0.5 gigatonnes of global CO2 emissions from the air by 2035,” says Florian Tiller, co-founder and CEO of Ucaneo Biotech GmbH. To achieve that, the company is building the world’s first cell-free Direct Air Capture technology, leveraging a biocatalytic membrane to capture CO2  from the air. This allows for a combination of the best in nature and the best of engineering to build a scalable and sustainable technology to combat climate change. “We have to act today to develop the technologies needed to mitigate climate change in the near future, and we are convinced that synthetic biology will play a key role in that”, concludes the co-founder.  

Ucaneo’s carbon removal technology is a water-based bioreactor with an enzymatically enhanced biomembrane. Compared to conventional DAC technologies this does not bind CO2 to a chemical solvent but leverages a concentration mechanism to capture CO2 directly from the air. The new technology is not only significantly cheaper than existing DAC methods, but also more sustainable due to the use of enzymes and utilization of waste products.  

Behind the start-up is a science and mission driven team, fast moving with a make or break attitude. Carla and Florian combine their backgrounds in molecular biology and business building in AI, robotics, as well as sustainability to combat climate change.  

Carla is the co-founder and CTO of Ucaneo Biotech GmbH. Before having even completed the first exams of her studies in molecular biology, she already had her first research project. This ended up turning into eleven research projects in total, four of which she organized her own funding for. After graduation, she decided to join a start-up for 1.5 years, working at the intersection of biology and AI to diagnose gene diseases in minutes instead of weeks. Carla holds a Master of Science in Molecular Biology from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.

Florian is the co-founder and CEO of Ucaneo Biotech GmbH. Before founding Ucaneo, he built up four companies in the fields of AI, robotics, and sustainability during his two-year stint at McKinsey & Company. Prior to that, he started a company in 3D printing and one educational NGO. Florian holds a Master of Science in International Management from the National University of Singapore, Tsinghua University Beijing and HEC Paris.

Currently, the start-up is operating two labs, the Life Science Factory Göttingen, one of the most modern lab co-working spaces in Germany, and a second lab at the IRIS, Adlershof, which is one of the leading labs in Europe in hybrid materials led by the Helmholtz Institute and the Humboldt University Berlin.

Within the Catalyst program, Ucaneo is looking to benefit from Carbonfuture’s expertise and experience regarding methodology and verification for innovative carbon removal technologies, as well as benefiting from the pros of implementing such sound principles from the get-go: “We are excited to participate in the Carbonfuture Catalyst program. This greatly accelerates our journey right from day one and enables us to create a trustworthy verification, reporting and measurement system for our novel CO2 capture technology - which will not only benefit the carbon removal market but our entire society.”