In the fast-evolving realm of nanotechnology, three companies are making remarkable strides: Aera Therapeutics, Switch Therapeutics, and Axoft. Each is pioneering in its domain, from advanced genetic medicine delivery and RNA interference to innovative brain-machine interfaces. Their groundbreaking technologies hold the potential to revolutionise treatment approaches for various diseases and conditions, marking a new era in medical science. This article explores the cutting-edge advancements of these companies and their potential impact on the future of healthcare and biotechnology.
Based in Boston, Aera Therapeutics has successfully secured a total of £202.21 million in funding since their inception in February 2023 from top investors including GV, Lux Capital and ARCH Venture Partners to name a few. The biotech company is pioneering the use of its unique protein nanoparticle (PNP) delivery system to enhance the effectiveness of genetic therapies.
The platform utilises naturally occurring human proteins from retroelements, which can self-organise into structures resembling capsids and are capable of packaging and transporting nucleic acid payloads. This innovative platform merges the advantages of a naturally self-assembling system with the flexibility of a protein-based design, potentially facilitating the delivery of diverse types of genetic medicine. Its objective is to broaden the application of genetic treatments across various tissues and indications, thereby extending their benefits to a larger number of patients suffering from various diseases.
Aera’s licenced technology also includes a cutting-edge therapeutic enzyme platform, based on the discovery of innovative, streamlined, and adaptable gene-editing enzymes. The smaller dimensions of these enzymes could potentially address the current challenges associated with the packaging and delivery of existing gene editing systems.
Switch Therapeutics is a breakthrough biotechnology firm at the forefront of developing a novel medical approach that combines nucleic acid nanotechnology with RNA interference (RNAi) science. Their focus is on creating treatments for a variety of diseases, particularly those impacting the central nervous system and systemic conditions, where there is a substantial lack of effective treatments.
The concept of merging nucleic acid technology with RNAi science originates from the scientific breakthroughs of the company’s co-founders including CTO Si-ping Han, Ph.D., which led to the creation of Switch’s unique Conditionally Activated siRNA (CASi) platform. This platform integrates the beneficial features of both single and double-stranded RNAs into a unified molecule. It enables cell-specific RNAi activity, along with effective self-delivery and absorption, and enhanced potency and duration of gene silencing. The CASi molecules are structured on a small interfering RNA (siRNA) base with additional structural elements for attachment to a specially designed sensor by Switch. This sensor is key to the efficient delivery of siRNA and controls its activation, ensuring it “switches on” exclusively in target cells.
In a statement highlighting the potential of Switch Therapeutics’ innovative approach, Dylan Morris, Managing Director of Insight Partners and a co-lead investor in the company, emphasised the significance of their development. “With CASi, Switch has developed a cell-selective gene knockdown platform that could pave the way for the next generation of RNAi therapies,” Morris noted.
Axoft, established in 2021, was co-founded by CEO Paul Le Floch and CTO Tianyang Ye, in collaboration with Jia Liu, PhD, Assistant Professor at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The company’s innovative technology originates from Dr. Liu’s pioneering work in creating materials and designs for ultra-flexible nanoelectronics, designed to emulate the mechanical and structural properties of the brain. Paul Le Floch further expanded this research during his PhD at Harvard in Mechanical Engineering and Material Sciences.
The resulting implants they have developed are notable for being gliosis-free, meaning they can be safely embedded in the central nervous system over extended periods. These implants not only maintain electrical stability for prolonged brain signal tracking but also offer a high density of sensors, enhancing the capacity for extensive information exchange between the brain and electronic devices.
Axoft’s advanced implants, designed to be minimally invasive, provide a high-bandwidth, stable connection with individual neurons in the nervous system. Unlike traditional implants that struggle with longevity and consistent neuron tracking, Axoft’s implant adapts to brain movement and growth, reducing replacement needs and offering a durable brain-machine interface (BMI). These implants are crucial for future neuroprosthetic applications such as sophisticated brain-controlled systems and real-time speech prediction, as well as closed-loop neuromodulation for treating disorders like epilepsy, memory loss, and movement issues. Current systems are limited to 16-96 electrodes, insufficient for these advanced applications. In contrast, Axoft’s technology, significantly softer than typical flexible electronics, allows for embedding up to 1024 electrodes in an ultra-thin strand, balancing biocompatibility with high bandwidth.