Dr. Nick Milne is the co-founder and Chief Science Officer of Octarine Bio. Octarine is a synthetic biology company that produces cannabinoids and other therapeutic psychedelic molecules through a sustainable, cost-effective proprietary yeast fermentation process. The company is based in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Dr. Milne earned his Bachelors and Honors (a Masters equivalent) degrees in biotechnology from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. He went on to pursue a PhD in metabolic engineering from 2011 to 2016 at Technische Universiteit Delft (the Delft University of Technology or TU Delft) in the Netherlands. At TU Delft, Dr. Milne studied the use of metabolically-engineered Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a yeast used in beer brewing, to produce alternative materials to those derived from petrochemicals.
In an interview with Molly Campbell and Ruairi MacKenzie of Technology Networks, Dr. Milne explained that the domestication of S. cerevisiae into a notably industrious brewer’s yeast “makes [it] an ideal organism to produce molecules in large-scale fermentation; it tolerates a range of harsh conditions, grows quickly, has an extremely fast metabolism and doesn’t succumb to viral infection.”
Dr. Milne’s expertise with S. cerevisiae carried over to his post-doc work. As a Research Scientist with Evolva, Dr. Milne produced pure resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant commonly associated with grapes and wine, from the yeast strain. In 2018, he joined the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability (DTU Biosustain) as a Postdoctoral Researcher, this time engineering S. cerevisiae for the production of cosmetic ingredients, biopolymer precursors, and pharmaceuticals.
It was at DTU Biosustain that this novel yeast engineering and fermentation process was first successfully applied to generate psilocybin and related tryptamine compounds. An April 2020 article in Psychedelic Science Review covered Dr. Milne’s team’s achievement and their accompanying study published in Metabolic Engineering.
In July 2018, Dr. Milne launched Octarine Bio with co-founder and biochemist Dr. Nethaji Gallage, bringing his innovative fermentation technology with him. Dr. Milne described his work in a presentation at the virtual conference Psyched2020. In the Technology Networks interview, Dr. Milne explained how access to therapeutic psychedelic compounds facilitates a much needed “radically new approach to how we treat mental illness,” one that offers an alternative to SSRIs, which “often come with intolerable side-effects and can produce intense withdrawal symptoms.”