Plastic Degradation Company, Breaking, Emerges from Stealth with Naturally-Derived Solution to Degrade Multiple Plastics with $10.5M in Seed Funding

Breaking, a plastic degradation and synthetic biology company, gestated at Colossal Biosciences based on a core discovery out of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, launches today with the announcement of their discovery, X-32, which they will develop to address the global plastics crisis. In its natural state, X-32 can degrade polyolefins, polyesters, and polyamides leaving behind carbon dioxide, water, and biomass in as little as 22 months. With future synthetic genetic edits, the team is focused on making X-32 faster, more efficient, and more effective with a harmless environmental impact.

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(L-R) Vaskar Gnyawali, Co-founder and CSO of Breaking, with Sukanya Punthambaker, Ph.D., Co-founder and CEO of Breaking. (Photo: Business Wire)

(L-R) Vaskar Gnyawali, Co-founder and CSO of Breaking, with Sukanya Punthambaker, Ph.D., Co-founder and CEO of Breaking. (Photo: Business Wire)

“I’ve spent my career in synthetic biology and protein engineering with the hope of developing something this transformational,” shared Breaking co-founder and CEO Sukanya Punthambaker, Ph.D. “In the future, our solution will be able to work across terrestrial and marine environments to break down today’s greatest threat to humankind/our existence: the plastic that is choking our world.”

Plastics Are Destroying the Planet

The world’s plastic problem is growing increasingly more severe:

Breaking’s Naturally Derived X-32 Destroys Plastics

X-32 is a breakthrough microbial discovery that destroys multiple types of plastic by breaking down hydrocarbon chains across different chemical structures quickly. X-32 works with polyolefins (the toughest plastic bonds), which include products like packaging materials, polyesters such as PET bottles, and polyamides such as nylon. In its current state, X-32 has been shown to degrade up to 90% of polyesters and polyolefins in less than 22 months. This is a significant improvement over other solutions which target only a single plastic type.

The microbe starts to work immediately. In lab tests, X-32 started to break down paint brush bristles, fishing wire, and dental floss in less than five days. If left untreated, paint bristles brushes can take 450-1,000 years to decompose, fishing wire can take 600 years, and dental floss would take 80 years.

Concurrently, X-32 utilizes plastics as a primary carbon source and needs no pre-treatment, sorting, cleaning, or decontamination and it emits carbon dioxide, water, and biomass during the degradation process.

Today’s primary recycling processes are inefficient and either degrade the plastic to a point it becomes unusable or further contributes to other environmental harms. Crushing and grinding destroys the fibers in plastics, making them unsuitable for re-use. As a result, only 9% of plastic makes it to a recycling plant. The most efficient disposal method, incineration, furthers the carbon crisis and releases noxious chemicals. But, Breaking’s X-32 has no known negative environmental ramifications.

The team is now going to utilize their expertise in synthetic biology to engineer X-32 into a faster, more efficient, and uniquely effective solution with the goal of breaking down more plastic, faster. They will first focus on identifying the enzyme used by X-32 which they believe breaks down the carbon bonds within plastics. By isolating the enzyme, then editing that enzyme, and applying machine learning and artificial intelligence to evolve more efficient enzymes, the team will build an improved solution for wide commercial distribution.

"Breaking is solving one of the biggest problems on our planet. They are using the natural world as inspiration and layering on cutting edge technology to transform how we break down plastics,” said Jim Kim, General Partner of Builders VC, and a lead investor in Breaking. “This is going to be one of the biggest breakthroughs of the decade and I'm excited to be part of it."

"We are excited to see how Colossal Biosciences has enabled our novel discovery to break away from its competitors in the plastic remediation space by developing a bioinspired technology that can degrade many types of plastics that are threatening our environment. This can be accomplished without pretreatment and the breakdown products could be used to produce other valuable materials and commodities. This is what sets Breaking apart from the field," said Don Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., Founding Director and Core Faculty of the Wyss Institute at Harvard University, the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital, and the Hansjörg Wyss Professor of Bioinspired Engineering at Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering & Applied Sciences.

Breaking Has Numerous Applications and a Growing Market

The team has identified numerous applications including utilization in wastewater, food waste and marine applications where X-32 and its further enhanced versions will be added to current microbe-based degradation programs. And, within the next few years, the team hopes to utilize their technology to ensure that newly created plastics have a faster degradation period and smaller overall impact on the environment.

“The first in-field pilots will target the food waste and composting industry,” shared Kent Wakeford, Executive Chairman and Co-Founder of Breaking. “Food waste into landfills is costing $16B in taxpayer dollars per year. But that food can’t be composted because of plastic contamination. If we can remove the plastics, we can save the government a lot of money, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and help improve overall quality of life.”

Additionally, as X-32 degrades plastics, it generates biomass containing different biomolecules that may also hold immense value in various industries. These molecules unveil potential for utilization in the production of biofuels, biodegradable plastics, and high-value chemicals. The team will continue to investigate the use cases as they more deeply explore X-32’s enzyme secretion and biomass byproduct.

“We have entered an era in which our environments and bodies are at risk to micro and nano particles of polymers (plastics) that we once trusted. We have also entered an age of exponential technologies in which we can see and seek the nuances and continua of polymers. Harmful-to-helpful is not nearly natural vs synthetic; it depends on size, shape, and location of the polymer particles. For example, polyethylene has the same set of bonds as beeswax, just longer. We are 'Breaking' these and reusing the parts in beneficial reconfigurations,” said co-founder and Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Professor of Health Sciences and Technology at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Core Faculty at Wyss Institute, Dr. George Church.

With 40 million tons of food waste in the U.S., Breaking sees the opportunity to reduce roughly 48 million tons of CO2 in the U.S. as both profitable and mission-work.

“Our breakthrough natural approach to breaking down plastics is more environmentally friendly than most existing solutions,” notes Vaskar Gnyawali, co-founder and CSO of Breaking.

"We could not be more thrilled to launch Breaking from stealth from Colossal. The technologies co-developed by the Wyss Institute provide limitless applications to address our planet's pervasive plastic contamination challenges,” said Breaking co-founder and Colossal CEO Ben Lamm. “Part of our core mission of ecosystem restoration at Colossal can only be achieved with the removal of plastic that plague our ecosystems and negatively impact biodiversity.”

Breaking has raised $10.5 million in a seed round prior to this announcement. The company was co-founded by the Founding Director of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University Donald Ingber, world-renowned biotech entrepreneur and Harvard geneticist George Church, CEO Sukanya Punthambaker, CSO Vaskar Gnyawali, Alba Tull, Kent Wakeford, and Ben Lamm.

In addition to a co-founding team. The company is pleased to announce its founding scientific advisory board members. The board includes:

  • Beth Shapiro, an evolutionary biologist who specializes in the genetics of ice age animals and plants. A pioneer in the scientific field called “ancient DNA,” Beth has traveled extensively in the Arctic regions of Alaska, Siberia, and Canada collecting bones and other remains of long-dead creatures including mammoths, giant bears, and extinct camels and horses. Using DNA sequences extracted from these remains, Beth’s work aims to better understand how the distribution and abundance of species changed in response to major climate changes in the past, and why some species and communities are more resilient than others, with a goal to help develop strategies for conservation of endangered species and ecosystems today. Prior to joining Colossal as Chief Science Officer, Beth was a Professor and Director of the Paleogenomics Laboratory at the University of California Santa Cruz and an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Beth is highly acclaimed for her research; she has been named a Searle Scholar, Packard Fellow, National Geographic Explorer, and MacArthur Fellow, and is an elected Fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the prestigious American Academy of Arts & Sciences. She is also an award-winning popular science author and communicator whose books “How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-extinction” (Princeton University Press 2015, 2020) and “Life As We Made It” (Basic Books 2021) explore how humans have been manipulating life on Earth for as long as we have existed and the potential of extending this to bring extinct species back to life.
  • John Warner is one of the founders in the field of green chemistry. He wrote the book that provides the definition and 12 principles of green chemistry with Paul Anastas in 1998. As an industrial chemist, he has over 350 patents and has worked with hundreds of companies worldwide. He received the Perkin Medal in 2014 from The Society of Industrial Chemistry. As an academic, he was a tenured full professor of chemistry and a tenured full professor of plastics engineering at the University of Massachusetts where he started the world’s first PhD program in Green Chemistry. He has over 120 publications in synthetic methodologies, non-covalent derivatization, polymer photochemistry, metal oxide semiconductors and green chemistry. In 2022 he received the August Wilhelm von Hofmann Medal from the German Chemical Society and in 2004 the Presidential Award for excellence in science mentoring (PAESMEM) from the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and President George W Bush. As an inventor, John’s inventions have led to the founding of many companies in the fields of photovoltaics, neurochemistry, construction materials and cosmetics. In 2016 he received the Lemelson Invention Ambassadorship from the Lemelson Foundation and the American Association for the Advancement of the Sciences (AAAS). John is a member of the Club of Rome, Distinguished Professor of Green Chemistry at Monash University in Australia, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, and Honorary Professor of Chemistry at the Technical University of Berlin where they have named the “John Warner Center for Start Ups in Green Chemistry.” John currently serves as President and CEO of The Technology Greenhouse.
  • Jon Kaneshiro is Vice President of Oahu Waste Services, Inc., Hawaii's largest waste hauling and recycling company. Jon oversees OWS and its subsidiaries' investments and strategic initiatives across their recycling and composting operations, real estate holdings, and expansion efforts. Prior, Jon held algorithm development and strategy positions in quantitative finance and technology firms. Jon currently serves on the board of the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, the Island of Oahu's municipal water system. Jon has a bachelor's degree in civil and environmental engineering from Loyola Marymount University and a master's degree in environmental engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Breaking is a plastic degradation company gestated at Colossal Biosciences that uses synthetic biology. Its flagship product, X-32 was discovered in 2022 at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University. Co-founded by Sukanya Punthambaker, Vaskar Gnyawali, George Church, Don Ingber, Alba Tull, Kent Wakeford, and Ben Lamm.


Colossal was founded by emerging technology and software entrepreneur Ben Lamm and world-renowned geneticist and serial biotech entrepreneur George Church, Ph.D., and is the first to apply CRISPR technology for the purposes of species de-extinction. Colossal creates innovative technologies for species restoration, critically endangered species protection and the repopulation of critical ecosystems that support the continuation of life on Earth. Colossal is accepting humanity’s duty to restore Earth to a healthier state, while also solving for the future economies and biological necessities of the human condition through cutting-edge science and technologies. To follow along, please visit: