We recently reported on six of the thirteen teams that compose IndieBio EU’s bright class of 2016. Here we present the remaining seven teams and their world changing ideas.
Anú Dairy (Ireland)
Anú Dairy promises to bring to the market a Vitamin K2 rich butter “from the lush pastures of Ireland”. The probiotics company is focusing on K2 due to its benefits against cancer, dementia and cardiovascular disease.
The correlation between cardiovascular disease and K2 deficiency lies in calcium uptake. Even though it’s needed to generate strong bones, an excess of calcium in the bloodstream can end up being deposited in arteries, leading to hardened plaques and weakened bones. “Cow’s butter can contain small amounts of K2”, CEO Kevin Kennedy told the Irish Examiner, “and Anú Dairy are giving the bacteria a little helping hand by providing a probiotic to the cow which will increase vitamin K2 up to levels high enough so that as you enjoy spreading butter on your vegetables you can be sure your bones are getting stronger and that your arteries are thus being protected.”
Uira BioenergEthic (Australia)
Uira BioenergEthic was formed under the mission of being the world’s first Holistic Algae Biotech Company by producing high quality algal supplements and algal-based products through sustainable practices. This is achieved thanks to the technology the company is currently developing, which allows growth of microalgae and aquatic plants doing wastewater treatment and carbon fixation through a combination of solar panels, micro-wind turbines and innovative extraction processes. The company’s first product is animal free omega-3.
Uira was created as a consummation of founder and CEO Francesco Cornalba’s holistic vision and search for harmony in nature through the principles of environmental sustainability. After becoming vegetarian, Francesco was hard pressed to find a way to replace fish-derived Omega 3 in his diet, and realized this was a major issue not only in a choice of lifestyle, but at a global scale in the form of malnourishment and health problems. “If every person over 50 could have an intake of 1gr of omega 3” says the founder, “the EU could save around €13Bln in expenditures for cardiovascular diseases.
MicroSynbiotiX wants to eliminate the excessive use of antibiotics in farmed fish, which has been one of the aquaculture industry’s Achilles heel for the last few years. The company aims to create oral vaccines through synthetic biology tools by generating therapeutic protein-producing transgenic microalgae. The use of microalgae as an oral delivery vehicle cuts labor and processing costs significantly, while also reducing fish mortality rates and preventing fish kills due to viral and bacterial outbreaks.
The key to their technology lies in the “plug and play” aspect of their microalgae protein expression platform technology, allowing the team to express desired therapeutic proteins of interest in various industries. Once they are successful in developing oral vaccines for aquaculture they intend to explore other industries with similar problems, such as poultry. They are wary of the time it may take: one of the biggest roadblocks on working with such new technology are legal regulations, which can reduce the speed to market.
Nevertheless, this team of scientists is moving forward and seeking to solve industry problems with science as their main tool. “Being a part of IndieBio has given us good exposure to the business world and we have learnt to do market and product validation,” says Simon Porphy, the team’s CEO. “We developed contacts who were very useful for our venture.”
Cell Reserves Inc (Canada)
Cell Reserves Inc is a Canadian biopharmaceutical company with the mission of developing novel protein and peptide-based therapeutics for the treatment of various diseases. Cell reserves is looking to reduce risks and costs associated with disease management by developing molecular shields that increase the persistency and bio-availability of therapeutics in circulation.
Ravinder Sardana, the company’s founder, says being a part of IndieBio EU has helped them establish a solid base in bringing Cell Reserves forward. “We have made new connections in the business world. Being part of IndieBio´s class has opened opportunities for us.”
With this support, Cell Reserves hopes to change the way disease management is thought of today, and intend to focus on both human health and veterinary targets for their primary developments. As Sardana says: “We are excited and looking forward to help create a brighter healthcare future with our technology”.
Moirai Biodesign (Spain)
This team’s statement is as bold as it is great. Moirai is engineering a new generation of RNA-based therapeutics and diagnostics for cancer through plug and play biodevice technologies. These devices are synthetically engineered RNA molecules that contain a sensor (designed to target a specific RNA cancer biomarker) and a trigger (designed to encode a specific protein). They work by detecting whether or not the patient’s cell expresses the target RNA and then encoding the corresponding protein accordingly. Their flagship project is a non-invasive test for in-vitro and in-situ diagnosis of Acute Myeloid Leukemia using the patient’s blood.
The impact these developments can have is evident. Amadis Pages, Moirai’s CEO, explains it:
“Our technology will enable the fast diagnosis of different types of cancers, allowing clinicians to make earlier and better treatment decisions and providing patient’s time to find suitable donors when needed.”
The team’s origin story is also quite interesting, and is a testament to what bringing together experts from different fields can produce. All the members were conducting their academic research in the same institution in Barcelona, Spain, but they were all affiliated to different research groups. As serendipity may have it, they ended up working in the same physical space, and daily conversations on science and how to bring their disciplines together turned into blueprints of their Plug and Play RNA technology. And thus, Moirai Biodesign was born.
MilisBio are an Irish protein bio-engineering company that wants you to get rid of sugar. They are developing a platform to identify improved sweet-proteins as natural, healthy and nutritious alternatives to sugar and artificial sweeteners. This can be applied to other tastes as well, such as salty, sour or umami, and can even be used to block bitter tastes.
But sweetness as their main focus wasn’t chosen at random. The impact of removing sugar from the global diet is evident, and enormous. “Protein sweeteners have the potential to reduce the incidence of diabetes, obesity and tooth decay”, says Paul Young, co-founder and CSO, “Seems like a no-brainer!”
Michael Sheehan, CEO and self-defined nerd/weightlifter crossbreed, says the company is quite excited about the impact they can have in human health. “The global pandemic of obesity, heart disease and diabetes is attributable to an intrinsic natural drive in humans. Presently a consumer can either fight these urges to avoid sugars, or settle for chemical substitutes which have been in some studies linked to cancers and mental disorders. However with a protein based sweetener, the consumer could embrace their sweet tooth wholeheartedly, without need for the slightest hint of regret or guilt!” Looking at you, fellow sweet-tooth. Our time has come.
Helixworks Technologies (India)
Helixworks Technologies are an Indian biotechnology company with the sort of origin story that makes storytellers envious. “We were intrigued by something we discovered after a chance meeting with Craig Venter in Stockholm” says founder Nimesh Pinnamaneni. “He mentioned that DNA is like a software and your cell is the hardware, you just need to write better software to make better life.”
And so they did. Helixworks is working in a brand new gene synthesis platform, allowing researchers to outsource the cumbersome “building DNA” part that usually takes weeks (or months, mostly depending on sheer luck) of lab work. Other companies have attempted this, but what Helixworks highlights is the prohibitive pricing policies they tend to apply. “In our preliminary research we found out that ~$3 Billion are spent each year to make DNA in-house,” says Pinnamaneni, “while the total gene synthesis service market is just about $200 Million. We thought, why build DNA? Why can’t we just print it like printing ink on a paper? We have 3 standard colors in ink (red, green and blue) and we have 4 bases in DNA, so it should be simple, right?”
Under this premise, they have developed a technology to assemble DNA from a cartridge of building blocks, which they call the Oligo-ink cartridge system. The system uses a fixed number of building blocks to assemble any DNA sequence and, just like an ink printer, every cartridge can be refilled once it runs out. “We are looking to open the doors of gene synthesis to people that haven’t been able to participate in the genetic engineering revolution; we basically want to be the radio shack of biology.”
What shall we add to our predicted future from the first part of IndieBioEU’s class, then? Healthier food by the pound, produced sustainably and likely with better, enhanced flavors; better disease management and maybe even a solve-all solution for cancer. And as a small lab owner myself, I am definitely excited about outsourcing months of cutting and pasting DNA ad nauseam.
Want to learn more about this brilliant future from the minds creating it? Don’t forget to sign up for IndieBio EU’s Summer Party Demo Day.0