After a $20M Series A funding, Germany's Insempra plans eco-friendly lipid production

Lipids are fatty, waxy or oily compounds that typically come in the form of fats and oils. As a result, they are heavily used in the production of beauty products, as well as in fashion and food industries. Right now, most lipids come from environmentally problematic petrochemicals. But new processes mean it's possible to make lipids from organic materials.

That’s the idea of German startup Insempra, which plans to turn oil yeast in lipids on an industrial scale using yeast fermentation factories. It’s now raised a $20 million Series A financing round led by EQT Ventures. Also participating was BlueYard Capital, Possible Ventures, Taavet Sten and Acequia Capital. Notably, new investors include the venture arm of FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) giant Henkel, Henkel dx Ventures, Bayern Kapital and Alante Capital.

The Series A follows an initial $15 million seed round that was conducted in 2021.

Lipids are used for cosmetic and food applications, but Insempra is also developing technology that offers a bio-based alternative to everyday materials such as polymers and textiles. It plans to work on generating ingredients used in antioxidants, preservatives, flavors and fragrances as well.

Founder Jens Klein was formerly CEO of AMSilk GmbH, an industrial supplier of vegan silk polymers.

Over a call he told me: “Lipids typically are either extracted from nature — you harvest the plant — or you can produce them petrochemically. We use so-called oil yeast. And these oil yeasts are put under certain conditions in our steel vessels under certain metabolic situations. Then they produce lipids oils, which we can extract later on, and which we can sell into the cosmetics and into the food industry.”

He said Insempra's main competitors are specialty ingredients companies, largely petrochemical companies: “I don't know any other company with an approach like ours.”

Insempra will also produce fibers for use in the fashion industry. “There is a spinoff we've done together with Imperial College," he said. "It's located in London. It's called Salina, and we do the Salina fibers there. These are protein fibers, which are spun as normal.”

In a statement, Ted Persson, partner at EQT Ventures, added: “New technology platforms such as Insempra’s have the potential to dramatically change the manufacturing processes of multiple multibillion-dollar industries, developing customized ingredients to fit market needs.”