The year 2021 will be remembered by a historical achievement of humanity: a global immunization program against Sars-CoV-2 with highly efficient vaccines only one year after the virus started its deadly campaign (Link). Three major factors contributed to this success: First, national and international funding programs injected significant money into the development programs early (Link). Second, the drug agencies (e.g., EMA, FDA) in synergistic work with the companies' regulatory bodies, combined with a massive willingness of volunteers to participate in clinical trials, paved the way for fast approval (Link). Third, and most essentially, as this was the only factor possible in the present time, new vaccine technologies like BioNTech's mRNA platform were mature enough to enable the rapid development and manufacturing of the vaccine to uphold the fast-track approval processes (Link).
The third factor, i.e., the development and manufacturing speed of a novel vaccine type, represents a fundamental implication for Belyntic's company mission to enable the best possible drug (Link). We knew from the start of the crisis in 2020 that our proprietary Peptide Easy Clean (PEC) technology could form the basis of a competitive vaccine platform based on peptides (Link) – Belyntic's call of duty for 2021.
Before we enter the world of vaccines, let's jump back to the beginning of 2021. After a warm-up event in January, presenting our company on the Humboldt-Tech Bridge to China (Link), we published the universally applicable, reductively cleavable PEC-Linker, in Chemical Science (Link). A follow-up article in Chemistry World covered the story of record-time peptide purification that is now possible with this first-in-class molecule (Link).
The Belyntic dishwasher - Cover art on the Edge Article in Chemical Science
We conducted the experiments with support from Bachem, and the articles laid the ground for an exciting co-marketing campaign, covering four webinars throughout the year. In February, it started with a general introduction webinar about the newly developed PEC-Linker for catch-and-release purification (Link). We gave an encore for our US colleagues in April (Link). The possibility to modify peptides late-stage – a feature enabled with the new PEC-Linker – was highlighted in a webinar in June (Link). Five months later, on November 9, we completed the whole picture with a start-up story, decorated with a detailed chemistry perspective on the PEC-Linker development (Link).
The personal contact between our partners and customers was desperately missing in 2021. Fortunately, conference and event organizers set up hybrid solutions, which gave us the chance to get in touch virtually and tell our story.
We kicked off the event year with a joint virtual panel discussion with Gyros Protein Technologies, hosted by the Oxford Global Conference on March 3. Our Head of R&D and co-founder, Robert Zitterbart, discussed the current state-of-the-art in peptide discovery, development, and manufacture with leading experts in the field (Link).
Just one day later, on March 4, we conducted our first own online workshop, co-hosted by Iris Biotech (Link). The interactive event with impulse presentations by Bhavesh Premdjee (Novo Nordisk) and Katarzyna Dzionek (Bicycle Therapeutics) provided a detailed view on two core benefits of the PEC technology: faster drug development through parallel peptide purification and efficient late-stage chemical peptide modification.
The Belyntic team is ready to go for the first online workshop. Photography © Belyntic GmbH
We emphasize the speed gains for peptide manufacturing using parallel PEC purification in the following period. For example, our co-founder Oliver Reimann participated in the 4th European Neoantigen Summit digital event on April 22 (Link), demonstrating the enormous time savings for cancer vaccine manufacturing with PEC. Moreover, we spoke about the high-throughput capacity of PEC to accelerate drug screening and validation projects using filtered well-plates in the roundtable discussion hosted by Gyros Protein Technologies during Oxford Global's Biologics Series (Link).
PEC-assisted peptide modification enables the fast manufacture of highly complex peptides on various scales (i.e., advance lead optimization, clinical testing, and large-scale manufacturing). Since February, the patent on this technique has been available online (Link). In the sequel, our application scientist Manoj Muthyala gave a fantastic talk about the hallmark feature at the Indian Peptide Symposium on March 24 (Link). Later this year, on May 19, Robert Zitterbart thankfully joined the presentation slot by Gyros Protein Technologies at the TIDES Digital Week. He presented how the PEC modification helps to improve drug development speed significantly (Link). Finally, we introduced the topic in collaboration with Bachem at the Biologics UK on September 6 (Link). The actual plan was to be there in person, but Corona intervened, and our partner and friend Gavin Noble from Bachem UK stepped in with a fantastic talk (Thank you, Gavin!).
We aim to ensure the manufacturability of the best-possible drug at any scale, regardless of its complexity. We call this approach design-for-manufacturing. Indeed, since this year, we can serve the whole value chain as we established the supply of our PEC-Linker and related materials from renowned external manufacturers at the multi-kg scale (Link). With this, we can ensure adequate material supply for clinical-stage projects and generic peptides, meeting the highest quality standards that our customers demand. A Liraglutide case study was recently published in Chemistry Today, highlighting the potential benefits of scaling up complex peptide manufacturing (Link).
Co-founder Oliver Reimann is presenting a 2 Kg-batch PEC-Linker. Photography © Belyntic GmbH
Besides a successful marketing year, 2021 reflects a period of building public relations. For example, the visit of Berlin's mayor Franziska Giffey and our district mayor Oliver Igel in June gave us the chance to show how we follow our vision to enable better and cheaper peptide drugs (Link). Besides, German television Phoenix came by for recording a short company profile for the Phoenix Plus – Steckbrief Berlin series in September. The clip is available online (from min 15:11 - Link).
Co-Founder Dominik Sarma explains the PEC technology to mayor Franziska Giffey. Photography by Jonas Gebauer
In October, another event triggered memories from the last year. Spending the evening with our friends and partners from the Investitionsbank Berlin (IBB), we received the KfW Award Gründen for Berlin, underscoring the importance of the science park Adlershof for the successful development of science-based start-ups (Link).
The PEC-Linker offers substantial benefits for peptide drug developers and manufacturers (i.e., rapid peptide drug development through parallel and efficient manufacturing of complex, modified peptides). Yet, during the corona pandemic, we strived to take the driver's seat and use the powerful technology assets to help overcome this crisis, building a universal platform for therapeutic and prophylactic peptide vaccines. We call it ImmunoPEC. The primary goal is to induce a long-lasting and mutation-resistant T cell immunity with viral fragments (so-called epitopes), tightly bound to strong adjuvants. Such complex peptide architectures become easily accessible with PEC.
Researchers from the Charité Berlin recognized the vital role of T cells early during the pandemic (Link), and the benefit of targeted, mutation-resistant T cell vaccines becomes apparent with emerging virus strains like Omicron (Link). In short: Our fully synthetic approach results in easy-to-manufacture and stable vaccines for global and durable T cell immunization.
The foundation for this venture was already laid in 2020 with a joint project with the University Hospital Bonn to develop the platform against infectious diseases, especially Sars-CoV-2. In the first quarter of 2021, we explained the potential benefit of peptide-based vaccines on international television on ARTE (Link) and Swiss TV RTF (Link). A special invitation by Bio Deutschland e.V. to the German Corona Showcase allowed us to present our view on the topic to the Who's Who of the national vaccine community in March (Link).
Challenge accepted: ImmunoPEC lead scientist Nadja Berger with co-Founder Oliver Reimann after receiving the SPRIN-D grant. Photography by Felix Alder
We worked hard to develop the concept and came back on screen in October during the International Oligonucleotides and Peptides Conference (Link). Ultimately, we marked a milestone along this strategic path by receiving funding from the Federal Agency for Disruptive Innovation (SPRIN-D) in November to develop a therapeutic vaccine using the ImmunoPEC platform (Link).
We matured our products and services for rapid peptide drug development and manufacturing using high-throughput purification and best-in-class peptide modification. A series of virtual and hybrid marketing activities enabled us to demonstrate Belyntic's value proposition to our customer base. In 2022, we aim to complete a technological leap. Besides offering automated high-throughput peptide purification solutions, we aim to showcase the economic and ecological benefits of PEC for large-scale manufacturing. A holistic approach drives us to make an essential contribution to the future of peptide drug discovery, development, and manufacture (Link).
Entering the SPRIN-D challenge to develop antiviral agents undermines our endeavor to engage more in the development process of novel peptide therapeutics. During the following months, we plan to generate the first preclinical results to demonstrate the clinical trial readiness of our vaccine platform.
Additional company actions include adding financial resources and moving into a new lab in the coming year. The latter is a considerable feat of strength for a small company. Yet, we identified a perfect location in Berlin-Adlershof and are ready to build a state-of-the-art chemistry lab and set the basis for our future growth.
The Belyntic Team. Photography © Belyntic GmbH
We look back to the very successful year 2021 across all relevant fields of activity - from maturing our core product portfolio to exploiting new opportunities in vaccine development. Thanks to all our trusted customers, partners, suppliers, financiers, and other stakeholders for supporting our activities.
The exciting year 2022 is now ahead of us, and we are happy to share this journey with you. Look out for news on our website and our LinkedIn page to stay tuned.
Have a great start to the new year. See, hear, and hopefully meet you in person soon.