Year/Course: 2017-2018, Easter 2018

Contact: Dr. Catherine Onley, Qkine; Dr. Marko H Hyvönen, Dept of Biochemistry & Qkine
Mentor: Dr. Marcus Yeo, CEO, DefiniGEN

Qkine is a recent spin-out from the Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge. The scientific founder, Dr Marko Hyvönen has over 25 years of experience in producing hard-to-make proteins for structural biology, in large quantities. His group has worked extensively on TGF-beta family growth factors and they have pioneered effective methods for their production.

Growth factors are typically complex molecules which are hard to produce in large quantities in consistent quality and stable form, variation in their bioactivity is a challenge for stem cell and bioprocessing applications. The current portfolio includes growth factors for maintenance and early differentiation of stem cells. Qkine was recently awarded Innovate UK funding for development of engineered growth factors for organoid applications and minimal active fragments of key growth factors.

The question for the iteam is to explore global market opportunities for growth factors in biotechnology, pharmaceutical R&D, research, bioprocessing and regenerative medicine; identify high growth segments and new opportunities both for existing products and novel related products.

The team will be asked to define and develop ideas for driving early adoption of the new organoid growth factors developed during the Innovate UK-funded project. This may include exploring potential collaborative links with researchers who are using organoids to deliver innovative precision medicine approaches and identifying needs in the pharma market, as organoid technologies are increasingly being employed in drug discovery, toxicity testing and in animal model replacement technologies.

Additionally, the stem cells are a strategic focus of the UK government which via the Cell and Gene Therapy and Precision Medicine Catapults and UK Regenerative Medicine Platform, is investing heavily in stem cell and regenerative medicine research and on removing barriers for translation of cell-based approaches to impact clinical outcome. There is significant investment in GMP manufacture facilities focused on scaling and developing regulatory compliant processes for stem cell culture and the team may identify needs within the bioprocessing industry to augment their recommendations.