Announcing the Garden Grants Winners

03/11/24   |   Written by The Homeworld Team

Today we share the Garden Grants Winners, awarding $1.35M across 16 teams tackling big problems for climate biotech.

“One of the characteristics of successful scientists is having courage. Once you get your courage up and believe that you can do important problems, then you can. If you think you can’t, almost surely you are not going to.”

Richard Hamming

Every big idea starts somewhere. It might be a “what if…” that turns into a diagram that becomes a written concept. It might be working backward from a dream impact for climate for which you’ve identified a humble, first experiment. But wherever an idea begins, in biology, it all ends up in the physical world at some point. And while working with words and bits can be cheap, working with atoms (especially ones that form living beings) costs money. 

Too often, big ideas in science are blocked due to a lack of early funding. The scientists who want to work on important problems are unable to. Homeworld exists to fill this crucial gap in funding and problem-solving. 

Today we are sharing the good news that Homeworld Collective has awarded $1.35 million dollars to 16 teams to act on their big ideas through Homeworld’s inaugural Garden Grants program. We chose to support practitioners trying to tackle some of the biggest problems in climate. Our only constraint for this round was that they use protein engineering to address those problems. 

After announcing the Garden Grants opportunity, 65 teams submitted ideas that totaled $5.5 million of requests. Every applicant took a bet on a new way of funding science and trusted Homeworld to support them. Other practitioners took note, and funders took note. Our program, our vision, was working: reviewers were communicating directly with applicants to make proposals stronger, and every proposal received transparent feedback regardless of the funding decision. 

Image showing 65 climate biotech projects on the website with the text over "Garden Grants: 65 awesome projects!"
See all the funded projects for 2024 and all the submitted projects on our platform.

Our initial plan was to award $1 million in grants, but there were more great ideas than that. So, out of appreciation for the community and excitement for their projects, we funded four more teams.

Homeworld’s mission here is to set the tone for boldness, ambition and courage. In the spirit of Richard Hamming, we want to help scientists believe that they can start small to dream big, with clear problems  as their guide.

In the weeks ahead, we’re going to introduce you to the teams we’ve funded. Projects were funded in 6 different countries and are applying protein engineering to climate  applications. But every grant awardee has a few things in common: 

  • They caught our attention with strong problem statements. In the public part of their application, the applicants convinced us that they had identified an important problem that was holding back human progress toward sustainability goals.
  • They excited Homeworld with their creativity and the clarity of their solution. Homeworld funds teams to get their first experiments done.
  • They articulated how Homeworld funding could support the team experimentally de-risk a “big, if true” idea. More than just clarity of the first experiment, we wanted to see the teams explain why their proposed work was the first step of a bigger journey to achieve the global impact needed for climate technology.

As a teaser, here are three of the funded climate biotech projects:

  • Catalyzing biofuel production – a proof of concept and screening platform for designing proteins for organic solvents,” by Samuel Thompson, who is trying to engineer proteins that can work in environments where cell-based life cannot. Many critical industrial and electrical operations must be done in the absence of water. If proteins can be designed to fold and to function in these industrial settings, then it would unlock an enormous new realm of impact for biotechnology.
  • Improving the CO2 Capture Efficiency of Plants Through Enzyme Engineering,” by Ahmed Badran. Ahmed started his professorship in 2022 with the ambition to deploy continuous evolution strategies to climate goals. One of the long-standing efforts in agriculture has been to engineer better RuBisCo, the key protein of photosynthesis. Engineering RuBisCo has been a holy grail of protein engineering that, despite significant efforts, has so far created little progress. However,  Ahmed’s expertise allows him to take a novel approach to this problem, using an accelerated form of evolution to boost RuBisCo’s catalytic efficiency. “Some doubt evolutionary approaches can improve Rubisco,” says one reviewer, “but if you are convinced that it’s possible, this is the best way to do it.”
  • Immobilisation of carbonic anhydrase for more efficient direct air capture, by Jenny Malloy.  Jenny has a lens for affordability and deployment in less privileged locations. If we want to do better direct air capture of carbon dioxide, we need scalable catalysts and high-surface-area contactors. Jenny wants to explore the frontiers of immobilizing carbonic anhydrase durably and densely on scaffolds made of cheap cotton fibers. 

See all the funded projects for 2024 on our grants page.

The entire process was orders of magnitude faster than the status quo of science funding. We announced the opportunity in August, closed the applications by November, and by the first week of December, we’d made our decisions. In those 10 weeks, the review team did 350 reviews across 65 applications, including 750 inline discussion comments of feedback. We couldn’t have done this without the team, our supportive philanthropic partners who want to see ambitious efforts in climate biotech, and the strength of the community all participating in this process. 

Thank you to everybody involved. Your positive feedback, probing questions, and survey results were instrumental. For those interested in the grantmaking design, details, and learning from Homeworld, we wrote a long debrief, “What we learned doing Garden Grants,” that we hope is helpful for the funder community. 

So if that’s what we could do in 10 weeks, let’s see what happens in the next 10 months! All of us at Homeworld are excited to see where these teams get in a year. 

If you’d like to get involved or learn more about future funding opportunities, please email There is not a current grant opportunity but we are always thrilled to meet practitioners in the climate biotech community.

Homeworld gratefully acknowledges our great partners at and the support of our board+advisors.

By The Homeworld Team