Wyss Institute’s AminoX project receives funding from Northpond Labs to accelerate innovation in protein-based therapeutics

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Northpond-funded Laboratory for Bioengineering Research and Innovation makes its fourth investment into the future of biotech

Boston, MA, April 08, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and Northpond Ventures announced today that the VC firm’s affiliate Northpond Labs has signed an agreement to support the development of the AminoX project toward commercialization. This is the fourth Wyss project selected by Northpond Labs for additional funding.

Established in 2020 with the involvement of Harvard’s Office of Technology Development, the five-year strategic research alliance created The Laboratory for Bioengineering Research and Innovation at the Wyss Institute through a $12 million commitment from Northpond Labs to support impactful research with strong translational potential. The Laboratory has previously funded the Wyss’ eRNA (now being commercialized by EnPlusOne Biosciences), SomaCode, and Lab-on-a-Molecule projects.

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The AminoX team – Helena de Puig, Erkin Kuru, and Michaël Moret from the labs of Wyss Core Faculty members George Church, Ph.D., and Jim Collins, Ph.D. – is developing a platform for the rapid creation and integration of non-standard amino acids (nsAAs) into protein drugs based on novel, patented chemistry and machine learning approaches. By making the process of endowing proteins with new functions easier, faster, and cheaper, they aim to revolutionize the synthesis of protein-based drugs and help get better medicines to the patients who need them.

“The AminoX platform has the potential to transform our ability to develop differentiated protein-based therapeutics by significantly expanding the vocabulary of building blocks that can be incorporated into biologics at high throughput. Northpond is proud to support this type of breakthrough scientific innovation as well as the scientific founders who make it possible,” said Mike Rubin, M.D., Ph.D., C.F.A., Northpond’s Founder and CEO.

Protein drugs that incorporate nsAAs have recently been thrust into the spotlight thanks to the FDA approval of and explosion of interest in weight-loss drugs like SaxendaⓇ and OzempicⓇ/WegovyⓇ. The incorporation of nsAAs into these drugs dramatically extends their persistence in the body from hours to days, making them much more effective and less disruptive to patients’ lives.

Using nsAAs to give proteins new properties has the potential to unlock a plethora of new drugs, but generating new nsAAs and incorporating them into proteins at scale is an extremely inefficient and time-consuming process. This bottleneck limits the ability of the pharma industry to bring protein drugs containing nsAAs to market.

“Proteins are the body’s workhorses – if DNA provides the blueprints, proteins are what actually implement the instructions written in the genetic code. We can now easily edit DNA using CRISPR and other technologies, but there’s currently no similarly easy way to modify the functions of proteins. We’re hopeful that our technology can open up a new frontier of drug development, and we’re grateful and excited that Northpond shares our vision,” said de Puig, who is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Wyss Institute.

AminoX’s proprietary chemistry enables the synthesis of proteins containing nsAAs through a simple, benchtop process that is more than an order of magnitude faster than current lab processes. The team was able to successfully apply their platform to >42 new nsAAs within one year in an academic setting. They aim to launch a startup company to galvanize untapped innovation in protein drug development.

“Our alliance with Northpond Labs is continuing to pay dividends in the form of helping the next generation of scientific entrepreneurs to move their groundbreaking technologies out of the lab and into the real world where they can help improve or even save lives. We are thrilled that the AminoX team’s journey to the market will be accelerated by this support,” said Angelika Fretzen, Ph.D., M.B.A., the Wyss Institute’s Technology Translation Director & Chief Operating Officer.

CONTACT: Lindsay Brownell Wyss Institute at Harvard University [email protected] 

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