Another interesting biotech also based in Gdansk is Blirt, a more-established biotech start-up in Polish terms, being founded in 2008. The company began life as an R&D company working on development of novel drugs. After gaining experience and the right equipment, the firm began acting as a contract research organization mainly carrying out cell line development, protein and antibody production, as well as the associated analytics and bioanalytics.
Now the firm employs 40 people, including 14 Ph.D.-qualified scientists providing services and focusing on its internal oncology and antifungal drug discovery programs. Blirt has identified an innovative and potent oncology drug candidate acting on multidrug resistant (MDR) tumors and anti-fungal compounds, which the firm claims has significantly enhanced potential clinical utility over the parent molecules (Nystatin A1 and Amphotericin B), the golden standard treatments for these diseases. All compounds are at the preclinical stage of development and the company is now seeking licensors with the capability to advance the lead assets through research and development for a range of clinical indications.
Consistent with its strategy, Blirt is also developing skills to support biologics production, and the company has built a strong internal team in this area. Pawel Gruszczynski, Ph.D., business development manager at Blirt explains: “As a service provider in Europe, we have become known as contract researchers that are able to work with difficult to express proteins. In October 2012, our expertise was recognized when Blirt received a substantial grant from the Polish government to support this venture.”
The aim of the project is to develop an innovative platform for the production of novel biologic therapeutics based on antibody fragments. Blirt is using mammalian cells and single use fermentors (up to 50 L) for antibody production. Manufactured antibodies are then validated by surface plasmon resonance (SPR) technology to confirm interaction with specific antigens. The SPR equipment is used for standard affinity measurements and comparative analysis of biosimilars with the original marketed reference antibody. Blirt intends to introduce the SPR technology as a contract service for biosimilar development.
Gruszczynski firmly believes that the Polish biotech sector has a lot to offer, stating: “Outsourcing research activities to Poland allows our business partners to have their project completed within in a short time and at a reasonable, market-competitive price. Many of our scientists came from leading academic institutions in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Switzerland. Their expertise has helped us to build collaborations with biotech, but also pharma companies. Our clients are mainly located in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland and they benefit from competitive pricing, as well as high-quality (ISO 9001 and GLP) services. We are continuing to expand our services throughout Europe, and look forward to starting work with U.S.-based companies.”