close
close

5 companies that are leading the way

5 companies that are leading the way

Located between the Adriatic Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the Aegean and Black Seas, the Balkans consists of many countries, including Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Slovenia and Serbia. While biotechnology is still developing in the region, especially in the healthcare field, several countries in the Balkans are beginning to embrace their life sciences sectors and develop hubs to attract more attention and accelerate local innovation. In this article we look at five biotech companies in the Balkans.

Acies Bio

Acies Bio, based in Slovenia, works on solutions in microbial biotechnology, developing efficient strains, sustainable bioprocesses and new bioactive compounds. The specific areas in which the company works are strain development, fermentation process development, DSP development and transfer to production.

As an example of what some of these areas entail: for strain development, the company develops strains through directed evolution, fine-tuning the key parameters of chemical and physical exposure to mutagens for each strain, from common cell factories such as E. coli and S. cerevisiae to more physiologically complex bioactive metabolite-producing organisms, such as actinomycetes and Myxobacteria. Meanwhile, for DSP development, Acies Bio initiates the development of downstream processing steps early in the development of bioprocess technologies. Their expertise ranges from the simplest inactivated biomass-based products to multi-step isolation and purification of target molecules with API-grade purity.

In January 2023, Acies Bio joined forces with Smart Resilin – a company that produces resilin protein through genetic engineering. This partnership was beneficial because it made Smart Resilin’s technology available to Acies Bio to develop and deliver resilin at scale for sustainable applications across a range of industries, from beauty to aerospace.

Bionature

Bionature is a spin-off from the University of Crete in Greece. It is currently in preclinical testing and focused on developing novel, patented, blood-brain barrier permeable small molecules for the treatment of neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases, such as diabetic retinopathy, demyelination and multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. disease.

The company has discovered that its synthetic small molecules interact with the receptors of the endogenous neurotrophins, nerve growth factor and brain-derived neurotrophic factor and are therefore called ‘microneurotrophins’. Microneurotrophins have been shown to be highly effective in preventing and reversing the demyelination and neuronal degeneration observed in the experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis model of multiple sclerosis and in preventing apoptosis in models of retinal degeneration. They are also strong inducers of neurogenesis (the process by which new neurons are formed in the brain) in vivo.

Micar21

Bulgarian company Micar21 is an AI drug discovery factory. The company aims to create major societal impact by improving quality of life through the discovery of new blockbuster drug molecules for multiple diseases in both humans and companion animals. It focuses on the entire drug discovery process, using improved structure-based insilico drug design and putting the candidates into preclinical testing, with advanced predictions of activity, selectivity and absorption-distribution-metabolism-excretion-toxicity (ADMET).

The company’s lead preclinical product is called MIC1045 and is intended for the treatment of cancer metastases. It targets CCR7, which has been found to play an important role in controlling tumor cell migration into the lymphatic system and metastasis, and therefore may contribute to cancer spread. The company’s other preclinical drug candidate is known as MIC4578, which aims to address chronic pain by targeting glycine transporter 2 (GlyT2). GlyT2 inhibitors are thought to alleviate many aspects of chronic pain by increasing synaptic glycine concentrations and thereby restoring glycinergic descending inhibition. Micar21 also has numerous other candidates in the pipeline in the lead identification and lead optimization phases.

ResQ Biotech

Greek company ResQ Biotech is advancing the development of early-stage drugs for diseases caused by protein misfolding and aggregation. Protein misfolding diseases (PMDs) are a large group of more than 50 human disorders caused by the misfolding of specific proteins. These include serious conditions with major socio-economic consequences, such as Alzheimer’s disease, systemic amyloidosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, retinitis pigmentosa and type 2 diabetes. Protein misfolding is recognized as a common molecular feature underlying to all these diseases. ResQ Biotech therefore believes this presents a huge opportunity for drug discovery.

The company leverages the common molecular origins of PMDs, such as the propensity of certain pathogenic proteins to misfold and form harmful aggregates, to develop a common framework for the efficient discovery of anti-PMD therapies. It has generated engineered microbial cells that function as a self-contained, living discovery platform for putative drugs against PMDs. These modified microbes are programmed to biosynthesize combinatorial libraries of short, drug-like cyclic peptides and simultaneously screen them to identify chemical rescuers of disease-associated protein misfolding and aggregation.

The Balkan biotech company has several ongoing research programs targeting diseases caused by misfolding of both soluble and integral membrane proteins. The current lead product is intended for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and is currently in the in vivo proof-of-concept phase.

theraCel

theraCell, also based in Greece, specializes in the development of innovative cell and gene therapy products. The company’s therapeutic portfolio includes the areas of orthopedics, dermatology, nephrology, immuno-oncology and tissue repair and regeneration.

The company says it currently has a number of therapies in clinical development, in collaboration with Orgenesis, as well as in collaboration with international centers of excellence in cell and gene therapies. In addition, theraCell actively participates in a large number of European academic and clinical research programs for products with potential for commercial application.

The formation of theraCell’s flagship joint venture with Orgenesis became the basis for an expansion of the therapeutic pipeline, with new cell and gene therapy products developed using tailored processes to meet patient needs. This partnership subsequently received an award of up to €32 million ($34 million) from the Greek government and was designated as a ‘priority investment of strategic national interest’. As a result of this designation, the joint venture was included in Greece’s accelerated licensing and approval process to help advance the development and clinical use of theraCell’s cell and gene therapies within the point-of-care environment.

Biotech in the Balkans: an industry still developing

As mentioned earlier, the life sciences sector in the Balkans is still developing and not too many healthcare-oriented biotechnology companies have been established in the region so far. However, there are signs that this could soon change. For example, in December 2023, it was announced that Serbia had begun construction of a biotech campus in the country, which is expected to leverage Serbian scientific expertise and private partners from the world’s largest pharmaceutical, genetics and healthcare companies. Furthermore, it was reported that pharmaceuticals and biotechnology are two of the fastest growing sectors in Slovenia, while the Bulgarian pharmaceutical industry has significantly increased its R&D and production capacity.

Discover other topics: