"We are making peptides available for industrial scale for the first time"
Until now, peptides have only been used for a few, rather high-priced applications - because conventional synthesis methods are expensive and hardly suitable for production on an industrial scale. The Munich-based startup mk2 Biotechnologies wants to change this situation: The young company, which is part of the 5-HT network, has developed a platform technology that can be used to produce a wide variety of peptides in a high-quality and scalable manner.
Two of the three founders, Dr. Konstantinos Antonopoulos and Dr. Sebastian Mangold, explain in an interview with 5-HT which industrial applications can benefit from this.
What is the idea behind mk2 Biotechnologies?
Konstantinos Antonopoulos: We have developed a platform technology that enables us to produce peptides in a very advantageous way. With our technology, we can make almost any peptide available - and in a consistently scalable way. Until now, for example, peptides were only accessible for high-priced pharmaceutical applications. Now, for the first time, we are making them available for more price-sensitive industrial non-pharma applications.
Why should other applications also increasingly rely on peptides?
Konstantinos Antonopoulos: We have identified many applications, especially in cosmetics, agriculture and food, but also in other pharmaceutical areas where there are challenges that can either be addressed inadequately or not at all by conventional means. Peptides have the potential to solve many of these problems. We are thinking, for example, of antibiotic substitutes, sustainable crop protection agents, sustainable preservatives for food, but also pharmaceuticals for diseases such as cancer or AIDS, which are currently very difficult to treat or cure.
What are the problems with the production of peptides so far?
Konstantinos Antonopoulos: Until now, there has always been a horse's foot. Either you were severely limited in the types of peptides you could produce, or there was a bottleneck in synthesis that made scaling up and thus massive cost reduction impossible. For the first time, we can meet the entire spectrum of requirements.
Which peptides can be synthesized with your technology?
Sebastian Mangold: While existing suppliers focus primarily on short peptides with 2 to 15 amino acids, we can also synthesize peptides with lengths of over 100 amino acids. In addition, we are able to produce peptides with any chemical properties. In doing so, we guarantee a high degree of purity that leaves nothing to be desired. We combine this very high quality of our products with economical prices and scalability. Thus, we offer an all-in-one package that is not yet available on the market.
What technology did you use to overcome the existing problems in peptide synthesis?
Sebastian Mangold: Our third co-founder, Dr. Marco Giuman, worked on the synthesis of recombinant proteins following his doctorate. We have adapted this technology pathway, which is already industrially established for the production of long-chain proteins, so that it can now also be used and scaled up for the synthesis of short- and medium-length peptides.
How was your startup founded?
Sebastian Mangold: The three of us who founded the company all completed our doctorates at the Technical University of Munich, where we met as part of the interdisciplinary Graduate School, which supports the qualification and networking of doctoral students from different disciplines. With the help of coaching services, we worked out the potential of the technology and developed a business plan from it.
Our first major success was a grant from the "EXIST-Forschungstransfer" program, which enabled us to validate our technology on a laboratory scale.
Where does mk2 Biotechnologies currently stand?
Sebastian Mangold: We recently closed a financing round of several million euros, which will enable us not only to continue working on our technology over the next two years, but also to expand our team. We are very pleased with the investor structure, as we have both a strong venture capital fund on board and several business angels who can support us with their expertise and market access.
Recently, we have also built up a good network in the cosmetics, food & beverages, agriculture and pharmaceutical sectors, so that we will soon be able to start the first cooperations with customers.
What are your next big goals?
Konstantinos Antonopoulos: On the one hand, we want to further develop our technology on a laboratory scale. We have several innovations in the pipeline here and are confident that we will be able to differentiate ourselves even further from the competition - also in terms of patents. At the same time, we are working on scaling up so that we will soon be able to produce on a larger scale.
Sebastian Mangold: We also want to enter further research and development collaborations with industry partners to identify which products are really needed on the market. After all, the potential applications for our platform technology are so large that we still have to find out which product candidates have the greatest potential.
How can the 5-HT network support you on your way?
Sebastian Mangold: With its focus on the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, the 5-HT network is very exciting for us. We are looking forward to getting in touch with companies in these fields that are interested in collaborating or are looking for biological solutions to their challenges. We are also currently looking for reinforcements for our team - for example, technical assistants, graduates of courses such as molecular biotechnology or bioprocess engineering, PhDs with laboratory experience, but also students who would like to work with us as part of a thesis.
Konstantinos Antonopoulos: Overall, we are excited about getting greater exposure in the 5-HT network - so that more and more companies know who mk2 Biotechnologies is and what we have to offer.
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