Biotangents; Primed for Success
Oct 19, 2017
By Becca Hardman Carter, an Advanced Higher student doing work experience with Innova Partnerships
One of Innova Partnerships’ portfolio companies, Biotangents is a Synthetic Biology company based in Scotland. It was founded in 2015 by lead scientists Andy Hall-Ponselè and Lina Gasiūnaitė who had a vision of a company, developing DNA-based technologies for the benefit of society. Presently, Biotangents are working on a diagnostic sensor for infectious diseases of livestock (the first target being Bovine Viral Diarrhoea), as they recognise the issues with current methods in the market - they are either slow or inaccurate. The importance of fast diagnosis is that the diseased animal can be isolated from the rest of the herd before it infects any others, therefore saving farmers a great deal of money. In the UK alone, £61m is lost annually due to Bovine Viral Diarrhoea. It is projected that Biotangents’ sensor, which works quickly on-site, could have global sales of £243m per year.
Biotangents’ first innovation was Leapfrog AssemblyTM, an advanced method of assembling DNA parts into a pre-defined order as part of a single reaction. This technology was designed for engineering the metabolism of bacteria to produce large quantities of useful compounds, originally high value fragrance molecules, difficult to obtain from natural sources. The next technology they created in that same, successful first year, is Short Sequence RandomisationTM, a method to vary the sequence of double stranded DNA. A pool of short sequences are assigned at random to a chosen insertion site of the target DNA and inserted. From this, a complex library of all the short sequence permutations in target DNA is generated, with each of the constituent DNA constructs containing different sequence variants in the target site. This technology can be used for uniquely tagging DNA constructs for identification or for modulating expression of target genes through changes in promoter, ribosome binding site or coding sequences. By combining these two platform technologies, Biotangents offers a service to design, manipulate and assemble genetic constructs for clients. They stand out from competitors, as, by using their unparalleled technologies, they are able to easily generate multiple sequences of DNA and can therefore quickly and effectively determine which option is the most suitable for the product.
In the current market, products to diagnose livestock for infectious diseases (developed by competitive companies) are inevitably having to make a sacrifice of being either accurate or time and cost efficient. The most accurate tests take approximately a week between taking the sample and receiving the results, as they must be sent to a lab for diagnosis. However, Biotangents’ projected diagnostics device, which uses their unique Moduleic SensingTM technology, looks promising in bringing a method which is simple and quick. This allows farmers to receive the result on the same day as the test being taken, but without foregoing accuracy - unlike other devices that work as rapidly.
In an interview I conducted with Andy and Lina to find out more about their experiences in getting their company to where it is now, they offered some advice to any budding entrepreneurs heading in a Life Sciences direction. Lina says that ‘networking is a really important part of setting up a company, alongside cooperating with others. Make sure to use other peoples’ expertise where it’s relevant, so you don't have to try to do everything on your own.’ Andy expanded upon this idea by saying ‘it’s such a critical thing when setting up a company to seek advice from people who have done these things before, who have the expertise that’s necessary to do a decent job of it.’
Co-founders Andy and Lina have great aspirations for their company. After developing their device for the diagnosis of Bovine Viral Diarrhoea, they will move onto one for diagnosing Johne’s disease. Further ahead, they will look into using their technology for antimicrobial resistance, which, if successful, could potentially bring their products towards the human healthcare market. Lina says her aspirations with this company are ‘to make a positive change to the livestock industry, the welfare of the animals and overall to benefit society through reduced burden of diseases.’ Biotangents has a well-planned out business plan and financial summary spanning the next few years, but still need to fundraise to bring their product to market. They are currently seeking investment funding to begin the next phase of their revolutionary journey.
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