Apta Biosciences, Singapore
Featured Date: 11th February 2016
Aptamers are gaining attention lately as a possible replacement for antibodies in many application segments. Though this industry segment clearly is in its infancy stages with very few commercial products, it is showing strong growth signals. Most aptamer companies are technology start-ups and focus on services for research segment.
Apta Biosciences Ltd. (ABS), a spin-off company of Fujitsu Limited, is one of the few aptamer companies in the Asia Pacific region. UK-based Anglo Scientific Ltd. was instrumental in setting up Apta Biosciences in 2013 with its headquarters in London, UK. The company has a wholly owned subsidiary, Adaptamer Solutions Pte. Ltd in Singapore, where the company has facilities to develop and manufacture aptamers.
Fujitsu has been working on aptamers since 2003. In 2010, Fujitsu received support from Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) to conduct joint research with the Experimental Therapeutics Centre, the National University of Singapore (NUS), the Cancer Science Institute and the National University Hospital. This collaboration helped to accelerate the development of the platform by verifying its effectiveness as a biomarker for prostate cancer and an aptamer for the West Nile virus. Fujitsu decided to involve external agencies to accelerate research progress, by spinning of the technology. Fujitsu also supports ABS through its corporate venture capital fund.
Apta Biosciences owns Seligo technology, a modified base aptamer platform, which is different from the standard SELEX method that is commonly used by aptamer companies. It can be rated as a radical new development in this area. The Seligos are DNA/amino acid hybrid molecules, made by covalently attaching amino acids to DNA for interaction with target macromolecules. It enables introduction of side chains to DNA, which helps in binding to targets with higher efficiency. The potential application segments of Seligo technology include diagnostics as well as therapeutics.
Apta Biosciences focuses on diagnostic as well as therapeutic applications of aptamers. Main business model of the company focuses on aptamer development services. The company owns a library of aptamers developed in-house available for clients to choose from, for further development. Apta Biosciences also offers support for developing aptamers against custom targets of clients, assay development, labeling, binding studies, and also in aptamer synthesis.
Apta Biosciences has a very strong IP portfolio with around 25 patents and several pending applications for its aptamer technology. In addition to industry partnerships, the company has established collaborative relationships with several academic groups including Imperial College London, Austrian Institute of technology and Aarhus University.
The company offers various models of association to potential clients. For example, the company is involved in collaborative research projects with academic organizations, which can involve aptamer selection to synthesis. The company generates revenues mainly from service and licensing fees. Apta Biosciences follows an intellectual property (IP) sharing model that is slightly different from many of its competitors in the field, as clients can buy a exclusive license for aptamers selected by them, even though the company retains first right for commercial use.
The company has in-house programs focusing on various therapeutic segments. Apta Biosciences has developed aptamers for prostate cancer biomarker and West Nile virus. The aptamers of the company can be used as affinity reagents in various assays including ELISA and Lateral flow. Other application areas of focus include cell isolation and purification, immunohistochemistry, and affinity purification.
Apta Biosciences has been able to generate funds from various sources to support its activities. In November 2015, the company received H2020 EU Grant to incorporate Seligo technology into next generation antibiotics and infectious disease therapeutics. This is in collaboration with Austrian Institute of Technology (Vienna, Austria), Imperial College (London, UK), Aarhus University (Aarhus, Denmark) and Albert-Ludwigs University (Freiburg, Germany).The long-term goal of the initiative is to develop antibiotic replacements for infectious diseases. Out of the overall grant, which is over €3 million, Apta Biosciences will receive close to €1 million. Prior to this, in 2014, the company had raised $2.5million as part of a crowd funding initiative.