Polybatics, a biotech start-up, is edging closer to commercializing a process for delivering custom payloads into living cells, potentially giving medical specialists a nanotechnology weapon to target disease.
The Palmerston North-based company, perched in a business park alongside Massey University, designs and manufactures natural bionanoparticles. These 'biobeads,' as they are known, can carry a range of proteins including antibodies, enzymes and antigens into living tissue.
Massey University Professor of Microbiology Bernd Rehm developed the technology which uses a natural polymer granule produced by bacteria under stress. Polybatics was set up to commercialise the research, gaining a $1 million grant this year and with plans to seek a further tranche in 2010.
The company now needs to demonstrate that biobeads can be scaled up from its laboratory proof-of-concept.
One demonstration was attaching tuberculosis antigens to the biobeads and eliciting a response against the disease in mice. Applications of the biobeads and attached functional proteins include bioseparations, antibody production and purification, diagnostics, antigen delivery, biocatalysts and drug delivery, said managing director Tracy Thompson.
Polybatics has one global patent and three pending. The company has four secondees from Massey and Canterbury universities. They will become full-time employees and receive stock options "when the time is appropriate," said Thompson.
"It's not quite time for them to quit their university jobs," he said.