Like many of the start-ups in the bio sector, the Midatech Biogune Company depends on strong investments during the initial years after the founding of the company and a long period of development, trials and licensing until profits can be obtained to commercialise its product.
In exchange, it promises to achieve an objective as ambitious as providing life to millions of people all over the world who have to take insulin daily to control their diabetes. How? By means of a small adhesive bandage placed on the inside of the cheek which releases gold nanoparticles which transport the hormone.
Midatech Biogune, strategically located beside CIC Biogune at the Bizkaia Technology Park, is a bio-nanotechnological company based on a Soledad Penadés technology, who is currently group leader at CIC biomaGUNE, but led a research group at the CSIC in 2000. Its level of development makes it one of the Basque Country’s most promising biotechnology companies.
Justin Barry, director of Midatech Biogune, explains the origin of the company from his office, at the back of an office which suggests hyperactivity: The director of the British firm, Midatech, Professor Thomas Rademacher, who worked jointly with Soledad Penadés in 2000, saw an opportunity in the technology she developed since the minuscule size of the nanoparticles developed make its work possible”.
Midatech Biogune was founded in 2005, and in 2007 it inaugurated its R&D and clinic manufacture plant, with the support of the Biobasque Agency, a Basque Government initiative through SPRI and the Bizkaia Technology Park. A year later the company signed a collaboration agreement with the MonoSol Rx, an American company, whose technology in films for the pharmaceutical industry, added to the Biscayan company’s nanoparticles, culminate in a strategic alliance to develop the product.
In 2010 the company developed its first prototype and a year later it obtained a GMP license (Good Manufacturing ,Practice) from the Spanish Agency of Medicines and Medical Devices, AEMPS, to produce clinical material suitable for human use. In October, 2011 the company obtained the statutory accreditations from the authorities in Switzerland to conduct the first trials on humans with nanoparticles functionalised with insulin for transbuccal administration.
“This year we have focused on clinical trials with volunteers whose results have been a clear success”, assures Barry during a recess between meetings.
Very small nanoparticles
The reduced size of the Midatech Biogune nanoparticles is key, since they are smaller than 5 nanometres it guarantees not to provoke any retention in the kidneys. “To excrete it, the organ’s limit is 5 nanometres”, assures Barry.
After some years of development, Midatech Biogune’s objective is very clear: create a product which is highly efficient in the inoculation of insulin which makes the injection unnecessary. The advantages would be multiple, such as the ease of administering and an increase in the application of some groups of patients who have an aversion to needles.
There still remain more clinical trials, in addition to trials with commercial insulins from several companies to test the efficiency of its inoculation with the technology. Those responsible at Midatech Biogune estimate that the product can possibly be commercialised by 2018.
The company’s activity is not limited to insulin. Researchers at Midatech have observed that the gold nanoparticles used have the potential to be used in the fight against three types of cancer: breast and ovarian cancer, liver cancer and glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer.
These three lines of research are still far from the development stage of the insulin adhesive bandage, but if the conviction that Barry transmits is a guide, it is possible that they will soon become promising applications.