RNA AND DNA-BASED VACCINES AND THERAPIES MADE FROM BIORESPONSIVE POLYMER NANOPARTICLES.
The importance of cheap and readily available vaccines became painfully clear during the COVID-19 pandemic. The UT spin-off 20Med Therapeutics is therefore working towards affordable and rapidly available vaccines. With their RNA and DNA-based vaccines and therapies made from bioresponsive polymer nanoparticles, they aim to make an impact. CEO Michiel Lodder talks about his company’s technology, impact and future plans.
In 2011, 20Med Therapeutics was founded based on research by Johan Engbersen. "He developed a biodegradable polymer that can be used to deliver medication directly into a cell in the body," Michiel says. Johan founded 20Med Therapeutics and Michiel joined in 2016. "With our technology, we can deliver DNA and RNA into the cell. There is a chemical link in our nanoparticles that breaks chains inside the cell, releasing the load. When you apply this technology to vaccines, you can make sure they are delivered to the right place in the body. Other manufacturers have used lipid nanoparticles for this purpose, but our technology is based on polymers. Polymers offer a different delivery technology with an own patent position. It’s truly unique."
So was business booming during the pandemic? "Not really,” Michiel says. "At the time, we hadn't done any experiments on humans yet, and during the lockdown we no longer had access to the labs at UT. So we were too late to jump on that wagon. We currently want to focus mainly on platform technology. We don’t assume another pandemic will hit any time soon, so we are currently looking at less widespread infectious diseases. I was traveling around South America at the time of the rise of the Zika virus. The western world still isn’t focused on such diseases as they think it doesn’t directly affect them. So that's why we will focus on such diseases instead. We are a for-profit company, but we do have a mission. We really want to do some good in the world."
At home in Twente
According to Michiel, Twente is the perfect base for their mission. “Our headquarters are currently in Enschede and we would like to keep it that way," Michiel says. "When we lost access to our labs during the pandemic, we were forced to move. At the science park in Leiden, where I come from, there is a type of MedTech Factory. Twente is now planning on building one as well. So part of our chemical research was done in Leiden, and the animal studies were done in Twente. It’s amazing to work in Leiden because all the facilities are there. I believe the same can be true for Twente. After all there is plenty of tech activity happening here. That is also why I am closely involved in the development of the MedTech Factory. For us it is very interesting to be part of the MedTech ecosystem in Twente.”
But until the factory is ready, they will continue our mission. They have recently won a High Tech Fund award. "We're focusing on high-tech matters, but that comes at a price. For example, we are looking at vaccine stability. Are the particles still the same size and do they not fall apart when the temperature changes? To measure such things, you need reliable equipment. We used to work with secondhand equipment which was not ideal. The High Tech Fund has allowed us to replace several machines. This has also helped us in our recently announced collaborations with CEPI and Touchlight, enabling us to grow even further."
Possibilities with this technology
There is no shortage of ambition. Michiel: "I very much want us to develop a vaccine candidate that is tested in humans. We can hopefully make that happen in the next three years. What we will do next depends on the market. For example, our technology is also applicable within cancer research. Whatever direction we take, it is important we don’t lose sight of our mission. The technology we have is unique and allows us to develop a broad range of medicine. Similarly, we have shown that you can inject mRNA nanoparticles into joints to treat osteoarthritis. But the development of such a drug is an incredibly long process. For now, we're focusing on vaccines and looking at oncology, and only then will we look at potential other applications. That's where the opportunities for our technology lie. It's incredible how much we do and can do. As long as we maintain the right focus throughout the process, we can truly make an impact."
""For us it is very interesting to be part of the MedTech ecosystem in Twente.”"
Michiel LodderCEO 20Med Therapeutics
The UT spin-off 20Med Therapeutics is working towards affordable and rapidly available vaccines. With their RNA and DNA-based vaccines and therapies made from bioresponsive polymer nanoparticles, they aim to make an impact.