Celebrating StarLab’s Anniversary with Gnubiotics Sciences
Interview with Bernardo Horta e Costa, CFO at Gnubiotics Sciences
In 2018, Biopôle SA launched its first initiative to support young life sciences start-ups. A lot has changed since then: 11 companies have joined the programme, we augmented the equipment in the laboratory and there is an inspiring and vibrant atmosphere amongst entrepreneurs. StartLab has grown and developed continuously with and for its members, trying to best accommodate their needs.
We want you to meet the first entrepreneurs to enrol in the programme. In 2021, they are approaching the end of their incubation cycle.
You joined StartLab in 2018. How has your company developed since then?
We have gone from lab-scale to full industrial-scale manufacturing of our first pipeline candidate, GNU100, which is for animal microbiome health, while at the same time successfully completing clinical trials to demonstrate superior functional benefits and gain market access.
StartLab offers both infrastructure and managerial support. How did the programme help you develop your company?
StartLab has been a pillar of our growth since the beginning by offering access to fully equipped labs and office space. We were able to run our preclinical trials, which have given us a deeper understanding of our pipeline candidates and helped us design highly successful clinical trials. There is also significant support to be gained from networking with other companies and special deals with lab equipment providers.
You position your company between pet and human food supplement. What’s the difference?
Our pipeline candidates are based on oligosaccharides (complex sugars) found in the breast milk of both humans and animals. Their composition varies from species to species (in cats and dogs we find 30–40 oligosaccharides and in humans 150–200). We have products that emulate both in terms of oligosaccharide diversity and functionality (e.g. strengthening the gut barrier, reinforcing the immune system, controlling pathogens or reducing inflammation). The positioning is roughly the same, but the human side of the business is a lot more complex and challenging in terms of both the science and the regulatory pathway to market access.
The company is celebrating five years since its creation back in 2016. What is its biggest achievement?
As is typical of a start-up, we have scored major achievements in several areas (such as IP, clinical evidence and manufacturing). Of all of these, the one I would highlight is achieving industrial manufacturing capabilities for our first pipeline candidate. At our contract manufacturing organisation (Evonik) , we currently have an installed capacity of 700MT/year of a product that is structurally 10 times more complex than its closest competitor. It’s a revolution in terms of production capacity and functionality.
How much has the Vaud ecosystem helped the development of the company?
From the outset, we have received significant support from Vaud in key areas: access to facilities and university talent have been very beneficial to Gnubiotics, while continuous financial support for R&D and business development (e.g. through industry conferences) have made a significant difference to our company’s development.
Your incubation period is almost over. What’s next?
We are on the verge of a new chapter at Gnubiotics: commercial operations. This year we expect to launch our first product in the animal health space together with a proprietary microbiome monitoring test that will help pet owners to track the evolution of and changes in their pets’ microbiome. We are looking to create a new standard in the emerging field of animal microbiome health.