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Minutes from BioInItaly Start-Up Initiative 2014

By Marija (Masha) Zecevic

Every spring, the Italian biotechnology association and the largest national bank organize a joint networking event called BioInItaly Start Up Initiative. During the two days of the event, selected emerging start-ups in the life sciences get to make a 10 minute pitch to an audience of investors, company scouts and industry experts.

Six such start ups presented today and below are my notes on each in the alphabetical order.

Aesis Therapeutics - novel small molecule therapeutic agent for the treatment of her 2 positive breast cancer. In vitro data shows that unlike other small molecule or antibody agents, the berberin analog acts by decreasing the amount of her2 protein in the cancerous cells, likely acting on the transcriptional level of the receptor. I would have liked to see if there was synergy between this molecule and the herceptin/kadcyla treatment on her2 positive cells.

Bio Bureau - high throughput assay to study biodiversity of deep-sea sediment samples, a mandatory analysis during offshore explorations in oil and gas industry.

Bio-erg - proprietary bacterial strain for the production of dextran. Microbacterial manufacturing process will allow the company to produce dextran with the cost of €20/Kg as opposed to the current price of €3000/Kg. Reduced cost could make dextran a useful material not just in pharmaceutical formulations but also in other industrial applications such as food or environmental pollution management.

BioThalia - what a timely pitch! Just a week or so ago we heard the news of a first synthetic eukaryotic gene being made. Biothalia generates custom designed kits for in vitro assembly of large DNA molecules based on proprietary algorithms and uniquely designed oligonucleotide probes. The benefit for customers is significant savings in terms of time and money.

EPINOVA Biotech - bioactive, resorbable hydrogel for wound management. Although this is a crowded field, epinova claims to be the only one using epiregulin as bioactive component of the product that gives the added benefit on skin healing. Human and veterinary use is anticipated.

Immagina - antibody free, resin based, polysome purification method to isolate ribosome-mRNA fraction from cells for further analysis. The 96 well plates are compatible with high throughput screening of biologic samples in order to study the effect of drugs on the trascriptome or identify new biomarkers. The advantage over competition is improved selectivity for cellular structures and reduced cost.

Nuvovec - the University of Ferrara start up is developing a new method for gene therapy delivery by using herpes simplex virus particles. The method offers a number of advantages over existing gene delivery such as lack of integration into host genome and ability to package large DNA molecules.

Can you guess which one tops my list?

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