Biotech startup Y Combinator is developing next-generation treatments and tools | GLM

Biotech startup Y Combinator is developing next-generation treatments and tools

At the Y Combinator demo day held earlier, the medical and biotech fields appeared, and nearly 10 companies caught the eye of the author. Recent startups have made remarkable achievements in this area, so it’s no wonder that some companies will be covered in next year’s top news.

Startups challenge major pharmaceutical companies

Atom Bioworks is one of the companies with tremendous potential on a very short schedule. As I wrote in my second article on a hot company on Demo Day, the company seems to be pretty close to realizing a DNA-programmable analyzer. This is also one of the ultimate goals in biochemistry. Such tools effectively “code” the molecule into close contact with a particular substance or cell type, allowing for a variety of follow-ups.

As an example, a DNA analyzer can attach to the virus of the new coronavirus infection and give a chemical signal indicating the infection before removing the virus. The same principle can be applied to cancer cells and bacteria.

The founder of Astro Boy has published details of the technology in Nature Chemistry. In addition to testing for coronavirus infections, the company is also working on treatments for coronavirus and other diseases, and the company is currently expecting sales in the nine-digit range.

LiliumX is another company with this direction. Lilliam X aims to be a “bispecific antibody” such as a prefabricated DNA analyzer. Because human antibodies can be learned, they can target a variety of pathogens, waste products, and unwanted substances in the body. The same can be done for cancer cells by injecting customized antibodies.

Related article: Serimmune launches new immune response mapping service for new corona

Lilliam X uses an algorithmic approach to generate the structures of antibodies that are likely to be effective. This is the same method used by AI-savvy biotech companies.The company uses a robotic test device to thin out antibodies.In a test tubeBy producing results, we are selecting promising candidates. It’s difficult to get potential customers, but these activities add to the value of the company.

Entelexo goes beyond that and is working on the development of a promising treatment for exosomes that can be used to treat autoimmune diseases. These small vesicles (like packages that interact between cells) can carry all kinds of substances, such as customized mRNA that can alter the behavior of other cells.

Systematic changes in cell behavior may reduce diseases such as multiple sclerosis, but the company hasn’t provided a detailed explanation of its exact mechanism. It’s not something that can be explained briefly. The company is already in animal testing. It’s amazing for a startup.

Another company that is even more advanced is Nuntius Therapeutics. The company is working on ways to provide cell-specific (skeletal muscle, renal cell, etc.) DNA, RNA, and CRISPR-based therapies, but these cutting-edge therapies present challenges.If you can contact the target cell type with such a treatment method, you can treat it properly, but whether the therapeutic drug will reach the cell or notI am not totally sure.. Like an ambulance driver who doesn’t know the address, the drug won’t work unless it finds the target cells.

Related article: “Gene editing technology CRISPR is essential for the treatment of new corona,” says Professor Doudna of UC Berkeley.

Nuntius claims to have devised a reliable way to deliver gene therapy payloads to a wide variety of target cells. If so, it surpasses the technology developed by major pharmaceutical companies such as Moderna. The company also develops and licenses its own drugs, so if this technology can be applied to humans, it can provide a comprehensive solution for gene therapy in a sense.

The company is growing not only in therapeutics but also in the field of artificial organs. Artificial organs remain in the experimental stage, as the use of biocompatible materials can carry the risk of rejection. Trestle Biotherapeutics is addressing a specific disease called renal failure and uses laboratory-cultured transplantable renal tissue to help patients with renal failure avoid dialysis. are doing.

Although the ultimate plan is to develop renal replacement therapy, a week or a month is very valuable for patients with renal failure. If you are on dialysis, you are more likely to find a donor and move up the waiting list, but not everyone likes to go to dialysis on a regular basis. Very many patients will be pleased if they do not have to undergo dialysis.

This collaboration between Yale (Yale University) and Harvard (Harvard University) was born from a team with extensive experience in stem cell science and tissue engineering. Jointly conducted 3D printing of human tissue is arguably part of this approach.

Initiatives other than treatment

At YC Batch, we have put considerable effort into improving not only the technologies for dealing with various diseases, but also the process of researching and understanding such diseases and technologies.

Many industries rely on cloud-based document platforms like Google Docs to share and collaborate. For copywriters and sales reps, a standard office suite is probably sufficient. However, scientists need to use discipline-specific documents and formats, so such tools are not always available.

Curvenote is a shared document platform built for users in such areas. It works with Jupyter, SaturnCloud, and Sagemaker to support a variety of import and export options. In addition, it integrates visible plugins like Plotly and manages versions with Git. All I have to do is convince the person in charge of my department that it’s worth the money.


Image credit: Curvenote

Visit Pipe | bio to get cloud tools that are even more specialized in your area of ​​expertise. Pipe | Bio, like Lilliam X, is working on bioinformatics to develop antibody drugs. The computing and database needs of biotech companies are very specific, and not all companies have bioinformatics experts, which makes it difficult to elaborate here.

Instead of having a graduate student specializing in data science work night shifts in the lab, it is desirable to have a tool that can be used just by paying (it is also desirable not to use special characters in the company name, but this is Will not happen).

Specialized tools can be used not only on PCs but also on workbenches. The companies I will introduce are looking firmly at the current situation.

forcyteForcyte is also one of the companies featured in the news of their favorite company on Demo Day. The company deals with the actual physical phenomena that occur in cells, rather than chemistry or molecular biology. This phenomenon is difficult to observe systematically, but there are various reasons for it to be an important area.

The company observes cells individually on a very finely patterned surface, paying particular attention to contractions and other shape changes. Physical contraction and relaxation of cells are important factors in some major diseases and their treatment, so researchers can obtain useful information if their changes can be observed and tracked.

Foresight positions itself as a company capable of conducting large-scale experiments on drugs that affect these cellular properties, and claims to have already discovered effective compounds for pulmonary fibrosis. The company’s team was published in Nature and received a $ 2.5 million SBIR award from NIH. This is very unusual.

Kilobaser DNA Synthesizer P877342

Image credit: Kilobaser

Kilobaser aims to enter the ever-growing field of DNA synthesis. Companies often contract with laboratories specializing in DNA synthesis to create custom DNA molecules, but if the amount created is small, it is more efficient to work in-house.

Even employees without technical knowledge can use the Kilobaser desktop machine as easily as a copier. With argon, reagent supplies, and a microfluidic chip (sold by the company, of course), DNA transmitted in digital form can be replicated in less than two hours. This makes it possible to speed up inspections in small laboratories, which were restricted by requesting another facility. The company has already sold 15 machines for 15,000 euros (about 1.94 million yen) per machine, but the actual cost is incurred when replenishing materials, just as the cost of replacing a razor blade is high.


Image Credit: Reshape Biotech

Reshape Biotech’s efforts are probably the easiest to understand. In order to automate common tasks in the laboratory, we specialize only in the approach of creating robots tailored to each task. Obviously, it’s not as easy as it sounds, but given that many laboratories have similar layouts and equipment, custom robot samplers and autoclaves may be adopted in many laboratories. There is no need to hire part-time graduate students.

There are other notable companies in the biotech and medical fields. There is no space on the paper to introduce all the companies one by one, but even in fields that were difficult to enter due to high hurdles, advances in technology and software have made it easier for startups to enter. Let’s keep it.

Rachel Maga
Rachel Maga is a technology journalist currently working at Globe Live Media agency. She has been in the Technology Journalism field for over 5 years now. Her life's biggest milestone is the inside tour of Tesla Industries, which was gifted to her by the legend Elon Musk himself.