Anjie Liu: Developing Elegant Scientific Solutions for Gut Relief
Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Hello, friends! Spiffy here, back with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Anjie Liu, the co-founder and CEO of Kiwi Biosciences. Let’s see what she is doing to make a positive impact in the world.
Spiffy: Thank you for joining me, Anjie! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing?
Anjie: Spiffy, thanks for having me! Our mission at Kiwi Biosciences is to make food painless for the 15% of the population with gut disorders. For many folks with digestive issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (a condition where one’s gut may be hypersensitive and might not pass food along at normal speeds), certain foods—even nutritious ones!—contain triggers that cause pain and discomfort. We create solutions that break down those triggers, using enzymes, so everyone can enjoy delicious and diverse foods.
Spiffy: Very cool! What motivated you to take on this challenge?
Anjie: About seven years ago, I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) myself. I discovered, with some painful trial-and-error, that a number of tasty and common foods trigger my symptoms. Kiwi started initially as a solution to my own problem. I just wanted to enjoy normal food without setting off my gut! This has since transformed into the most meaningful work I've ever embarked on, by serving a community of people also afflicted with chronic gut distress.
Spiffy: Meaningful work indeed! How are you and your team at Kiwi Biosciences working towards a more equitable world?
Anjie: Well, living with gut disorders like IBS is no joke and can seriously deprive a person of the ability to thrive in society. Chronic symptoms like abdominal pain and urgent diarrhea make it very difficult to work productively and function normally in daily life. On top of that, the condition feels embarrassing and isolating, particularly if one cannot enjoy the foods that bond us. We want to eradicate these symptoms so everyone can fully partake in society and access a basic right to eating without pain.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent milestone by Kiwi Biosciences. What impact does that make?
Anjie: Last month, we presented scientific research behind our first product, FODZYME®, at Digestive Disease Week®, the most prestigious conference in the world for doctors and researchers working on gastrointestinal problems. There, we had the honor of seeing our poster presentation highlighted as one of particular interest for IBS researchers. This opportunity to present our enzymatic approach to industry experts is for us a first and significant step in shaping the way doctors manage IBS.
Spiffy: Congrats on that first big step! Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from that experience?
Anjie: Early on, I had trouble finding a co-founder together with whom I could actualize my startup vision. I knew I had to find someone who has a skill set that complements mine, aligns with me on values, AND is as passionate as I am about the mission. This seemed impossible and I nearly gave up on these high but critical standards. Eventually, after months of outreach and interviews, I joined forces with my co-founder, David, who is all of the above (and more!). Those initial "failures" served to show me what was important in my search.
Spiffy: Thanks again for speaking with me today, Anjie—it’s been an honor!
Anjie Liu is the CEO and co-founder of Kiwi Biosciences, a human-centered biotechnology company based in Cambridge, MA, devoted to developing elegant scientific solutions for extraordinary gut relief. Anjie studied physics and comparative literature at Harvard College and is passionate about dot-connecting across disparate disciplines! (Nominated by Alex Parks of Harvard Innovation Lab. First published on the Ladderworks website on July 28, 2022.)
© 2022 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Corner here.