LARAMIE — A basement-level biotech business in Laramie formed by University of Wyoming molecular biology professor Don Jarvis and former student Christoph Geisler received a $1 million grant to get off the ground.
The award came to GlycoBac through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant. It will be shared with a company out of the University of Kentucky for a collaborative effort to develop new platforms for manufacturing biotechnology products.
Jarvis and Geisler began their company, GlycoBac, in summer 2011 after winning UW’s John P. Ellbogen $30k Entrepreneurship Competition. They used their $12,500 award from the competition to establish the company and paired with ParaTechs Corp. to submit the winning proposal.
GlycoBac's goals are to find ways to produce glycoprotein drugs using insect cells. In this initial project, GlycoBac will work together with Angelika Fath-Goodin, the project's co-principal investigator at ParaTechs in Lexington, Ky.
Started by Bruce Webb from the University of Kentucky, ParaTechs has developed technology designed to increase production levels, while GlycoBac has developed technology designed to increase product quality in insect cell-based manufacturing systems.
"We're on parallel tracks," Jarvis said. "ParaTechs has technology that it believes can produce larger amounts of material, and we have a technology we believe can produce higher quality material. We chose to couple our technologies in an effort to develop insect-cell systems that can be used to manufacture larger amounts in addition to higher-quality biotechnological products."
GlycoBac and ParaTechs submitted the proposal for their cooperative research in April and received a grant of more than $1 million to be used over a two-year period. Each company will receive about half of the funding to conduct its research.
"We will be working together due to our common interest in improving insect cell-based expression systems to produce recombinant proteins with biomedical applications," Jarvis said. "Insect cells have been used as platforms to create FDA-approved drugs, and they provide a faster and safer alternative for doing so. They are not well suited for the production of glycoprotein drugs at this time."
With the help of the grant, GlycoBac will officially begin operations as a company and will begin product development in earnest.
"Right now, the company exists on paper," Jarvis said. "But, we don't have a lab or product yet. This grant will help us to get up and running."
As a former $30k Competition winner, GlycoBac is eligible to work in the Wyoming Technology Business Center for a year after moving out of its current facility.
As GlycoBac begins to operate as a business venture, it will hire its first employees, including a chief research scientist and technical assistant, while Jarvis will serve as a consultant.
For more on GlycoBac and other UW spinoff companies, watch for the upcoming special WBR publications "Discoveries" coming in November, and "Research Wyoming" coming in January.
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