6 BioTech Disruptors in 2021

June 2, 2021 • Devin Partida

The hard work from people in the biotech sector is instrumental in helping others live healthier, happier lives — often by opening new possibilities and solving longstanding problems. Here are six startups set to disrupt the health care sector and the medical treatments and diagnostic capabilities within it. 

1. Orchid

Most people know certain conditions they have could make their offspring more likely to develop complications. That’s why some take preconception tests first. However, many of those on the market have major shortcomings because they only look at a tiny portion of one parent’s genome. A startup called Orchid is trying to improve upon that. 

CEO Noor Siddiqui founded the San Francisco-based business in 2019, driven to do it after some of her family members received devastating diagnoses that affected their ability to have healthy children. Orchid’s approach involves both partners taking an at-home saliva test that analyzes substantially more of each of their genomes than other preconception tests can. 

The couple then receives a report that shows the probability of genetic risks, plus a model of how their combined DNA will create a child. If the test shows a raised risk for issues, people get advice on proactive measures to minimize them, such as in vitro fertilization or adjusting their diets. The company recently completed a $4.5 million seed round, so investors obviously find this approach intriguing. 

2. Nautilus Biotechnology

A proteome is the full set of proteins that a particular genome encodes. Thus, the field of proteomics helps researchers identify the links between the proteins a cell or tissue produces and the events that cause a disease to begin or progress.

Nautilus Biotechnology uses a single-molecule proteomics platform that analyzes and quantifies the proteome in humans. The company’s goal is to use that system to accelerate the development of new treatments and make improvements in the much-discussed field of precision medicine. The company started in 2016, and it uses a combination of hardware and software to facilitate a process company leaders deem revolutionary. Machine learning also helps generate results. 

Estimates suggest there is a total market of more than $25 billion for this innovative approach to proteomics. Many approved drugs target proteins, but if researchers achieve advancements in proteomics, the drug discovery process could happen faster. That means people would get life-changing therapeutics sooner. 

3. Celmatix

Many people think of the ovary solely as a reproductive organ. However, it controls the hormones that send signals throughout a woman’s entire body. The people at Celmatix envision a time where they could delay menopause and all the health conditions that sometimes accompany it. 

The company claims to have the world’s largest structured dataset on ovarian health and associated outcomes. One of the enterprise’s first aims is to help women with chemotherapy-induced ovarian failure. From there, they hope to address other disorders, including endometriosis and primary ovarian insufficiency. The goal is for the company to create a drug program that slows how quickly a woman’s ovarian reserve gets depleted — or how many follicles she loses weekly. 

Every female has a different number of follicles in her ovarian reserve, and factors like genetics or lifestyle choices can influence how fast the depletion happens. This approach aims to slow it with pharmaceutical interventions that people take daily, similar to birth control.   

Piraye Beim, Celmatix’s founder and CEO, explained, “If we could buy women an extra 10 to 15 years of natural endocrine function, we’re talking about a huge boost in their vitality and their wellness at a critical stage in their life. It will align us more with men, basically.”

4. Isolere Bio

Isolere Bio wants to improve the future of gene therapy with its new purification technology. Some gene therapies rely on adeno-associated viral vectors (AAV) to insert new genes into a patient to cure or reduce the effects of certain genetic diseases and disorders. 

However, using AAV safely and effectively requires removing impurities. Kelli Luginbuhl, who founded Isolere Bio in 2017, noted that very few innovations have occurred in this area overall. Thus, room for improvement existed. She says her company’s approach could bring up to a 50% increase in viral vector yields. 

Instead of using complex chromatography equipment to remove contaminants, the company depends on tangential flow filtration (TFF). Moving ahead that way allows for completing an entire purification round in less than a half-hour, according to its website. It’s also possible that this purification approach could improve how people work with other viral vectors, such as those used in the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. 

5. Sparrow Pharmaceuticals

When patients have excessive corticosteroid levels — either because the body produces too many of them or they need to take steroids to treat certain conditions — they can experience a worsened quality of life. Sparrow Pharmaceuticals wants to target that excess without negatively affecting the outcomes of any prescribed steroids. 

People at the company are working on a proprietary oral HSD-1 inhibitor called SPI-62. It targets the source of steroids that cause tissue toxicity. The idea is that the inhibitor would limit adverse effects in the body while allowing patients to continue receiving the therapeutic benefits of any steroids they take. 

Robert Jacks, the company president and CEO, recently spoke about completing a $50 million Series A financing round. He stated, “With this new financing, we have an opportunity not only to address unmet medical needs in patients suffering from disorders of hypercortisolism but also to potentially solve the 70-year-old puzzle of how to separate the life-changing efficacy of steroid medicines from their severe side effects.”

6. Grenova Solutions

The COVID-19 crisis made more people aware of the waste associated with medical supplies, particularly as individuals stocked up on disposable masks. However, the people at Grenova Solutions had medical waste on their minds long before the pandemic hit. They’re specifically hoping to cut down on disposed items in labs. The company builds devices that allow washing and sterilizing large quantities of pipette tips, preparing them for reuse. 

Reflecting on his company’s success, founder and CEO Ali Safavi said, “It hasn’t been easy, but I’m proud to say that, as of today, over 700 million pipette tips have been washed and reused safely.” Safavi also confirmed that the process prevented over 2 million pounds of plastic from ending up in a landfill and reduced industry costs by more than $58 million.

A recent $10 million investment in the Virginia-based startup will go toward tripling the company’s current physical space and quadrupling its staff numbers over the next several years. During a recent groundbreaking ceremony for the new facility, speakers mentioned that organizations such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) already use Grenova Solutions’ technology. 

The BioTech Sector Is Bounding Forward

These six startups emphasize why the biotech sector has a bright future ahead. The progress made within it will undoubtedly bring success to researchers and patients alike.



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