Protein Capture Science Accelerates Medical Therapies
The single most important first ingredient in every startup company is not talent, technology, nor even venture capital.
The most important critical success factor in the beginning is product/market fit.
That’s true, whether the startup is a consumer business with an iPhone app or, like Columbus-based Protein Capture Science (PCS) an industry innovator in a very complex and specialized field of biotechnology.
PCS Delivers a Much-needed Tool for the Biotechnology Industry
PCS’s iCapTag™ is a unique platform for the purification of recombinant proteins and protein fragments. The patented core of this technology, which can be applied at scale in both laboratory and manufacturing environments, is the result of twenty-plus years of research by PCS Co-founder and CSO, Dr. David W. Wood at The Ohio State University (OSU).
Recombinant proteins make up the core of the biopharma industry; in research they help to unlock the secrets of untreatable diseases, while they also comprise the blockbuster drugs that save countless lives. To be useful for any of these applications, however, these proteins must be highly purified.
Depending on the application of the desired protein, complex purification methods must be developed that can vary widely between laboratory and clinical manufacturing scales. For large-scale biopharmaceutical applications, the development of these processes can take months or more. The solution that PCS provides can purify virtually any non-monoclonal antibody (mAb) protein or peptide, at any stage of development or manufacturing, reducing the purification process development time from months to hours.
“Our technology is a tool for the entire biotechnology industry because it can bridge basic research with full scale manufacturing of recombinant proteins under a single purification platform,” said Dr. Izabela Gierach, PCS co-founder and CEO.
International interest in the iCapTag™ is a result of the company’s relentless focus on solving a problem that impacts biological scientists everywhere – the simple purification of new recombinant proteins for basic research or for large-scale production as biopharmaceuticals.
In an early indication of its significance, the iCapTag™ was recognized and invited to publish as a 2021-2022 Industry Innovator by the widely recognized BioProcess International magazine. It is not common for a startup to be selected for this recognition.
“During the years that David has been working on this technology, he kept his finger on the pulse of biopharma technology development, listening to the challenges that scientists and biotech companies face, how things have changed over time, and which new ideas worked and which didn’t,” said Dr. Gierach.
“We created a knowledge base of what drives this industry,” she said, “what makes research or manufacturing easier, and what is a non-starter. All of that is baked into this product. We designed a solution that the industry needs, so we would have a fairly easy time of promoting this product.”
The iCapTag™ includes a proprietary capture resin that provides a predictable, efficient, and cost-effective protein purification process that can accelerate both drug development and reduce eventual manufacturing costs.
An Intuitive Sense of Product/Market Fit
And how, as scientists, did Dr. Wood and Dr. Gierach come by such an intuitive sense of addressing a customer’s need up front rather than convincing customers after the product was developed?
“The answer that pops to mind for me,” said Dr. Wood, professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at OSU, “is that I come from a family of professors and educators. Both my parents were professors. My brother was a professor at Stanford. My uncle was a professor at Yale. My grandmother was a grade school teacher. My calling is to engage in service. I come from a family who has generations of people who empathize and try to help other people. You have to understand what people want and need before you can serve them.”
Coming from Europe originally, Dr. Gierach brings a sensitivity to places in the world where the research and development infrastructure may not be as robust as in the U.S.
“Even where biotechnology isn’t as developed or accessible, scientists can still become pioneers in their country, work hard on solutions based on their interest, and use our product to do purification work even if they don’t have complex chromatography equipment,” she said.
“Scientific discovery relies on the study of new proteins,” said Dr. Gierach. “After completion of the Human Genome Project almost twenty years ago, there is still so much we don’t know about thousands of encoded human proteins and their impacts on health, disease development, and their potential as biopharmaceuticals. That area of science is very exciting right now. Therefore, the impact of the iCapTagTM technology on mankind can be extraordinary and, of course, global.”
Recently, Dr. Gierach was awarded two scholarships to join the prestigious Venture Capital University program at the UC Berkeley School of Law and National Venture Capital Association, as well as the Bank of America Institute for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Cornell University. The latter is aimed at about 90 percent women of color, which equates to about 45,000 participants so far. Both programs bring together entrepreneurs and individuals interested in business from many different countries and fields to collaborate and network.
PCS recognizes an extraordinary team of OSU graduate students and collaborators who helped develop initial prototypes of their technology that contributed to the production of their first patented product . Over the course of developing the initial prototypes of the iCapTagTM product, over $2 million was awarded to Dr. Wood’s lab by government agencies and private companies.
“There are many models for how relationships start,” Dr. Wood said. “It can be at a meeting or a conference, or in response to an email or a telephone call. We can navigate these well. When someone is excited about our science and our idea, they ask us to send some resin so they can perform their experiment.”
Now that the product has become visible to biotech companies, PCS is planning to scale up production. There has been already significant interest from across the industry to try the iCapTagTM resin for a wide range of applications.
Products can currently be ordered on PCS website, where some samples are provided free of charge for a limited time. Other products, including prepacked columns and bulk resin, can be ordered in larger quantities, with custom orders also possible.