06/14/2021 | The show

ACHEMA Start-up Award Finalist: Lumatix Biotech

Enlightenment in antibody purification

Monoclonal antibodies are currently one of the fastest growing fields in pharmaceuticals . But they are very expensive - treatment can cost up to 100,000 euros per year and patient. One reason: purification is complex. Lumatix Biotech, a company that is currently being founded, wants to offer a more cost-effective alternative.

Numerous drugs currently approved for the treatment of diseases as diverse as cancer, autoimmune diseases or infectious diseases are based on monoclonal antibodies - recognizable by the suffix "mab" of the active ingredients. This class of active ingredients is so broadly applicable because they bind very selectively to molecular structures. However, their production is still very complex: After biotechnological production, the antibodies have to be isolated and purified in several steps. The first step is often protein A chromatography, in which the antibodies bind to a protein A-loaded column and are thus isolated from the culture supernatant. Then the bound antibodies are washed and finally rinsed out of the column by an acidic elution step. However, the antibodies often do not tolerate this last step in particular - some lose parts of their biological function, while others are completely destroyed.

Switching the column on and off

"At Lumatix Biotech, we have developed an affinity matrix for the isolation of antibodies that is controlled by light.," explains founder Andreas Reichert. " Comparable to traditional methods, antibodies are captured effectively by an immobilized protein ligand. But the affinity towards antibodies can be switched digitally with light of different wavelengths. Lumatix Biotech realizes this disruptive concept by the functionalization of a protein ligand with a proprietary molecular light switch that can change the binding mode: on and off.

This results in several advantages at once: By using a physical "trigger" instead of acid, a particularly gentle buffer of choice can be selected. This means that this method can also be used to produce antibodies that cannot tolerate the harsh conditions previously required. In addition, once the antibodies have been rinsed out, the matrix can be switched directly back to adsorption mode. Regeneration by changing the buffer is no longer necessary - so the productivity of the column can be increased considerably. And because only one running buffer is needed, and much less of it, costs can be further reduced.

Inspired by sleeping tadpoles

Andreas Reichert developed the idea for this technology during his doctorate at the Technical University of Munich: "During my time as a doctoral student, I attended a lecture by Professor Dirk Trauner, who presented a light-switchable propofol derivative - a narcotic. A video showed tadpoles that were first anesthetized in a bath with a low concentration of the propofol derivative. The subsequent irradiation with violet light, on the other hand, resulted in prompt awakening - but the animals only moved again as long as the light remained on: in the dark, they fell under anesthesia again. At this time, I was in the laboratory a lot and had to purify recombinantly produced proteins by affinity chromatography almost every day. The substances used during chromatography were quite expensive and had to be separated from the protein again afterwards. The subsequent purification steps were more costly than the affinity chromatography itself. When I saw the "light-driven" tadpoles, the idea of transferring the principle of an external light stimulus to affinity chromatography immediately popped into my head."

Looking to expand the network

The motivation to form a company from the idea together with his two co-founders Fabian Rodewald and Christopher Graf is fed by several considerations: "As an entrepreneur, you can realize your ideas of a product. The market then decides whether it will be a success or not. Being a founder or entrepreneur always means being open to innovation and change. And every minute you invest in your own company is a gain," says Andreas Reichert. This also carries the team over hurdles such as adapting the technology to the requirements of the market.

The team hopes to gain even more visibility in the industry from the ACHEMA Founders' Award. "The level of awareness of our technology should be increased and our network further expanded. We are looking for cooperation partners with whom we can develop customized light-switchable proteins. By doing so, we aim to create new applications and/or redesign established applications. We welcome investors to join us in realizing Lumatix Biotech's entrepreneurial vision."

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