Meet Daniela Blanco, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Sunthetics, one of seven current tenant companies working on life science technology at Temple Health and Bioscience District (THBD).
What makes the work of citizen-supported not-for-profit THBD stand out is the innovation taking place within the facility. Ms. Blanco represents the latest of this cutting-edge innovation as a female entrepreneur in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field fueling the life sciences industry with processes that allow science and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to come into the energy sector.
Ms. Blanco has been nationally awarded and recognized for her work and you can currently find Temple’s own inventor streaming live on Disney+ documentary Own the Room where she discusses her groundbreaking technology in the chemical industry. She has helped to create solar-powered chemicals to decrease waste in the chemical industry and has aided in the process of commercializing AI platforms that can now be applied to all processes in the chemical industry.
Ms. Blanco grew up in Venezuela with a passion for invention and discovery, naturally leading her along the path to chemical engineering. As a young student intern in the country’s booming oil industry, she took note of practices that lack sustainability and often resulted in inefficient uses of time and money, with a harsh environmental impact. Her science mind, naturally fueled by the desire to innovate, led her to make a difference that will have world-wide impact.
While working on her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at New York University, Ms. Blanco studied the use of renewable energy resources in chemical manufacturing. A scientist at heart, she observed the long and arduous work involved in developing new chemical processes using the role of trial and error and the scientific method.
“That’s when I got really excited about the role of artificial intelligence [AI] to help accelerate the chemical reaction process,” says Ms. Blanco. “Instead of running hundreds of experiments to find the optimal operation of a reaction, we run a few experiments and get that data from AI.”
Focused on efficiency and broadening the impact of this AI, Ms. Blanco set out on a mission to develop software that could harness this technology and apply it to a variety of uses for chemists and chemical engineers around the world. Ms. Blanco explains, “If you look at chemistry like baking a cake, instead of recreating the wheel to determine the amount of ingredients and applied temperature and time to bake your favorite cake, the AI acts as a step-by-step recipe to help chemists reach the desired outcome more efficiently.” The only difference? The end products range from textiles to electronics and beyond rather than dessert.
As a female entrepreneur focused on improving the use of AI in the chemical industry, Blanco explored the pain points of chemists in the field to determine how to make their processes more efficient. Thus, Sunthetics was born. Realizing the broad reach of this technology, she refers to the company’s AI software as a tool that can be used across industries, from manufacturing to pharmaceuticals, to enhance sustainability, affordability, and efficiency. The result is a machine-learning platform that reduces the often long, arduous, and expensive process of scientific testing to just a few simple experiments, thus getting companies and products to market faster than they could have dreamed possible.
“When trying to develop these processes, it takes on average four times longer without the use of our tool,” says Ms. Blanco. “By using our AI, scientists are using five times less energy and raw materials to even develop their processes, so sustainability is inherently involved.”
The broad-reaching impact of this technology has earned Ms. Blanco and her team at Sunthetics global recognition. Blanco has garnered numerous awards and grants, dating back to her studies at New York University. Last year, she was recognized as one of Inc.’s “Top 100 Women Entrepreneurs of 2020” and recently in Massachusetts Institute of Technology Review’s “35 Under 35.” Along with her Sunthetics Co-Founder Myriam Sbeiti, the two were recognized this year by Forbes’ “30 Under 30.”
After signing up for a global entrepreneurial competition, Ms. Blanco learned that a documentary crew was chronicling the process and following Sunthetics’ success. As a result, her vision for the future is featured in Own the Room, a National Geographic documentary now streaming on Disney+.
Most recently, Sunthetics was awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF). This is an accolade the Venezuelan-born scientist relishes as a realization of the American Dream.
Initially drawn to Texas by family, Blanco visited Austin after defending her thesis in Spring 2020 – during the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic. Allured by the ability to spread out and embrace lab equipment and technology, she describes herself as “lucky” to find a home in Temple, Texas at THBD.
“Our plan is to make use of the private lab as we expand and make use of the National Science Foundation [NSF] grant to run our processes in Temple,” says Blanco.
Among the big things happening in Texas’s burgeoning life science corridor, a globally-recognized technology that has the capacity to help the manufacturing of countless products and consumables resides right here in Temple, Texas. Learn more about Sunthetics at www.sunthetics.io. Read more about THBD’s current tenants at www.templebioscience.org/tenant-companies.