Preliminary Proof of Concept
The company said it has established preliminary proof of concept of its platform by producing diselenide-stabilized antibody products as well as therapeutic proteins, including human growth hormone, in its selenocysteine recoded bacteria.
In all instances, according to GRO Biosciences, yields were high, selenocysteine incorporation at the desired sites was 100%, and all diselenide bonds formed correctly, leading to the properly folded protein. The diselenide bonds dramatically increased stability in physiologically relevant conditions, as confirmed by functional assays, the company added.
Last year, Dr. Church led a research team in applying recoding to design and synthesize a bacterial genome, an exercise designed to show how new organisms could be created that feature functionality not previously seen in nature.
Digitalis Ventures led the seed funding, with participation from Innovation Endeavors, the venture capital firm whose co-founders include Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc.
“Protein therapeutics represent a $180 billion market, yet product stability, targeting, and delivery into the cell still remain significant challenges to be addressed if we are to enhance the patient experience, achieve better compliance and improve health outcomes,” said Geoffrey W. Smith, founder and managing partner of Digitalis Ventures.
GRO Biosciences is one of numerous companies founded by Dr. Church; others include Alacris Theranostics, Editas Medicine, and Veritas Genetics. In addition to Dr. Church, co-founders of GRO Biosciences—and their roles with the company—include:
- Andrew D. Ellington, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry at University of Texas at Austin, who will also serve on the scientific advisory board.
- Daniel J. Mandell, Ph.D., CEO.
- Christopher J. Gregg, Ph.D., CSO.
- P. Benjamin Stranges, Ph.D., principal scientist.