In the past two years, the cold chain turned into one of the most talked-about aspects of healthcare. Biotechnology company X-Therma in Richmond, CA, plans to improve the cold steps in the bioprocessing of cell and gene therapies with biomimetics.
In manufacturing gene and cell therapies, bioprocessing includes DMSO-based cryopreservation in some of the steps, but this chemical can be toxic. Xiaoxi Wei, PhD, CEO and co-founder of X-Therma, says that they’ve developed a “biomimetic bioprocessing platform that is enabled by a new type of chemistry.”
By studying the antifreeze molecules in insects, X-Therma created a protein-like molecule called a peptoid, which can replace the DMSO-based methods of cryopreservation. In addition, X-Therma’s technique prevents the formation of ice, which can kill cells, and it allows therapies to be stored at higher temperatures. “You will be able to support all the living medicines, including vaccines and cell and gene therapies,” Wei says.
The peptoid technology can be used in many aspects of manufacturing and delivering therapies.
“Wherever you’re using cells, you have to preserve them over time, including acquisition of raw materials, growing cells, banking cells in production, and when you’re producing the final product,” notes X-Therma’s CTO and co-founder, Mark Kline, PhD. “[The peptoid-based approach] can fit anywhere in line where you need to freeze the cell therapy, raw materials, or any of the components throughout the manufacturing process.”
Plus, X-Therma developed its XT-Thrive for easy inclusion in bioprocessing. “This particular cryopreservation solution is designed to directly plug into the current biomanufacturing process, which means you don’t need any specialized equipment,” Wei says.
This technology is already being tested through early adoption programs at some biopharmaceutical companies, and the results are promising, according to X-Therma. With cardiomyocytes derived from induced pluripotent stems cells, for example, Wei points out that the cells can be processed, packaged, and “as soon as you pull out the cells, you can see—by your eye—that the cells are beating.”
By taking inspiration from natural tools—antifreeze from insects—bioprocessing just might make it easier to manufacture better therapies for the next pandemic, and even for many treatments in the near future.