New Innovators: GlycoSeLect
Purifying methods speed up analysis in time-pressed biopharmaceutical world
Robert Dunne of GlycoSeLect: “Our technology improves the manufacturing of biopharmaceutical products by giving users a single-step product separation method”
At first glance, glycoproteins may not seem to have much relevance for everyday life, but they are in fact the bedrock of the biopharmaceutical industry and are used in the food and cosmetics sectors.
The problem with glycoproteins is that they are difficult to analyse, so anything that simplifies the process is of big interest to the multimillion dollar turnover industries involved.
Currently making waves in the glycoproteins pool is Dublin City University life-sciences spin-out GlycoSeLect. Set up in 2013, its disruptive technology can make glycoprotein analysis and manufacturing cheaper and more effective.
The company’s products are innovative because its lectins come from bacteria as opposed to more expensive plant-derived lectins that can also vary in quality. GlycoSeLect’s lectins are also easy to produce in milligrams for analytical purposes or in kilos for large-scale industrial production.
“Our technology improves the manufacturing of biopharmaceutical products by giving users a single-step product separation method,” says chief executive Robert Dunne. “This more efficient separation opens up the possibility of immediate product analysis, replacing the current time-consuming, multistep procedures that can take up to 24 hours to complete.
“Current manufacturing methods also involve multistep separations to purify the product. A method like ours with fewer steps is much more cost-efficient and will ultimately help to reduce the cost of biopharmaceuticals and other life-science industry products.”
The roots of GlycoSeLect’s technology go back to 2005 to the formation of an industry-academia collaboration, the Centre for Bioanalytical Science. Its brief was to focus on solving the problems associated with the development, analysis and production of biopharmaceutical products based on glycoprotein chemistry.
As the project progressed its commercial potential emerged and the technology, developed by research scientists Paul Clarke and Róisín Thompson, became available for licensing.
The next step was to link the technology with someone prepared to bring it to market. This is where Dunne fits into the picture. He is a chemist with 35 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical industry across quality assurance, manufacturing, business development and general management in both multinational corporations and spin-outs.
He is also a participant in Enterprise Ireland’s business partners programme which links entrepreneurs to commercially viable academic research. It was through this connection Dunne found out about the DCU researchers’ groundbreaking technology.
GlycoSeLect employs six people, including Clarke and Thompson. Three staff are based in the UK where the company is part of a consortium that recently won a £248,000 investment from Innovate UK to develop a technology that will help streamline drug development pathways.
“Our aim is to become the leading company in our sector, and our first target market is the analysis and product purification segment of the biopharmaceutical industry which will have an estimated market worth of $1.6 billion by 2018,” Dunne says. “This is a rapidly growing field and around 95 per cent of all new drugs are biopharma based. There are five major corporations supplying analytical and manufacturing equipment to the market, and we are already in discussions with several of them.”
The technology had its official launch in October last year, and the company makes its money by charging a licence fee and selling product.
GlycoSeLect is now looking for an outside investor willing to put about €500,000 into the business. This will be used to accelerate the development of new products, to support the existing operation and to fund future business development.
GlycoSeLect is not without its competitors, but Dunne says its combination of easier-to-apply technology and bacteria-based lectins puts it ahead of the posse.