Start-Up Previews (06/2009)
A preview of the emerging health care companies profiled in the current issue of Start-Up. This month's profile group, "Start-Ups Set Sights on Flu," features profiles of Alios BioPharma, Immune Targeting Systems, Marinomed Biotechnologie and Vivaldi Biosciences. Plus these Start-Ups Across Health Care: CardiAQ Valve Technologies, NKT THerapeutics, SPOC Inc.,and Sutro Biopharma.
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In therapies that target the immune system, T cells have become an important target because of the role they play in cell-mediated immunity, directing macrophages, natural killer cells, and cytotoxic T lymphocytes towards invaders. But a subset of T cells, called natural killer T cells, may afford more precise control because they straddle both the adaptive immune system and the more generalized innate immune system that reacts more rapidly and non-specifically. NKT Therapeutics hopes to take that refinement one step further by focusing on a subset of NKT cells that don't vary from individual to individual. Moreover, the invariant T-cell receptor that they carry is identical in everyone.
Marinomed Biotechnologie, which derives drugs from marine sources, is eyeing both the OTC and prescription markets. The Vienna-based start-up has already launched its first product: an OTC nasal spray formulation of a drug based on a polysaccharide extracted from seaweed. The company has in vitro and in vivo efficacy data for this compound against seasonal influenza, suggesting that it may also have potential for treating pandemic flu.
Scientists have long tinkered with cell-free methods of protein synthesis, but turning their lab bench discoveries into commercially actionable ones is usually a tedious affair that ultimately requires the return to traditional cell line development. Sutro Biopharma claims to have developed a speedy cell-free way of producing proteins that can swiftly shift from laboratory to commercial scale. Rather than packaging the process for widespread use by researchers, Sutro is seeking to collaborate with partners intent on creating biopharmaceuticals--ideally, companies interested in high-throughput protein engineering.