With its own amino acid, VALANX Biotech has opened up a new range of super fast, low-cost protein conjugate products for industry.
There are only 20 building blocks of proteins (amino acids) in nature, yet the unique patterns of their combination build to form the complex world around us. So although very small, discovering your own completely new synthetic amino acid is quite the accomplishment.
VALANX Biotech was founded by chemist Michael Lukesch (CEO) and soon-to-be biotech PhD Patrik Fladischer (CSO) at the Graz University of Technology, Austria. The pair realised that with their synthetic programmable ‘click’ amino acid – called SnapIt – an infinite number of high value industry tools, ingredients and therapies could then be built by protein conjugation. For example, SnapIt could be used to hook an antibody up with a medicine to make an antibody-drug conjugate (ADC). ADCs are antibodies that can shuttle therapeutic molecules to cancerous tissues only. It is chemotherapy that targets only the cancer, therefore reducing and even abolishing it’s side-effects. Two of these drugs, named Kadcyla and Adcetris targeting blood and breast cancer, are already on the market.
“Antibody-Drug-Conjugates can also be produced more cheaply with our platform – up to 50-fold less expensive than our closest competitor,” Michael explained. In addition to reducing cost, SnapIt is being developed to also 1) connect onto smaller proteins, which otherwise pass through your body too quickly to be effective, 2) link enzymes to create fixed layers of custom industry biosensors to detect the presence of a certain chemical, or 3) to immobilise biological molecules to act as catalysts. The variety of potential uses has already won VALANX a competitive research grant from the Austrian government.
At RebelBio, they have been able to strengthen their science and business plan. Michael has scaled up VALANX’s production to achieve up to 50 g of product per batch as well as genetically engineer E. coli to incorporate SnapIt into proteins. Leading up the lab work for the E. coli is VALANX Biotech intern, Alex Csamay. Before arriving to RebelBio, Lukesch reached out to Csamay, who very spontaneously joined the team and now provides her excellent lab skills to the company. Csamay studies microbiology and is completing her thesis on topics VALANX Biotech focuses on. After her time with the team at RebelBio she will return to Graz to complete her masters. As for VALANX Biotech, they will continue to work on their company upon their return to Austria. They are also seeking additional investment to power up their platform further to mammalian expression systems.