Winner of the French Resilience Call for Proposals in late 2020, Affilogic, a cluster member specialising in the discovery and development of Nanofitins® for use in biotherapeutic applications, received a grant to develop its molecule production capabilities. This will allow it to relocate its production, currently based exclusively in Portugal, through the creation of a Nanofitins® production unit (Nanofitins are small synthetic proteins used in the development of biotherapeutics)
Given that the company’s main focus since its creation 10 years ago has been on research, its manufacturing capability was never an issue. However, as the research progressed, Affilogic teams realised that they needed to scale-up their production capabilities to provide a better fit with their research requirements. Having, up till now, subcontracted the production of gram-scale Nanofitins® to Portugal, last year the teams decided to scale up production in the face of surging demands from industrials, associated with high growth expectations.
The issue was how best to re-appropriate this production, either by establishing a subsidiary in Portugal, or by creating a new production site in Nantes. “In view of the current situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was evident that the best strategy would be to maintain control over these business operations in order to keep jobs and value-added in France.“ remarked Olivier Kitten, the company’s founder and CEO.
The local ecosystem (Atlanpole and Atlanpole Biotherapies together with the Pays de la Loire region) played its part by mobilising regional government departments, la Direccte (Regional directorate for companies, competition, consumption, work and employment), which sent the government advice on the opportunities and supported the funding application to the DGE. Affilogic, having learned of the imminent publication of this France-wide call for proposals was ready to stand as a candidate.
As creator of the winning proposal, Affilogic has been awarded the sum of 2.2 million euros. It now remains for the company to raise an equivalent amount with its banking partners.
Olivier Kitten continued “We now have the means to establish a production unit in Nantes. We have already identified and taken out a lease on our future premises, which are just a 15-minute ride by electric scooter from Nantes station! The countdown to converting these platforms into laboratories is on!“
Over the last 10 years, the company has put together an impressive Nanofitins® portfolio. The challenge now is to ensure their “clean” production as these molecules will be used by industrials for preclinical studies in animals prior to their development as biotherapeutics.
In order to expand production, we will be recruiting sixteen people over the next two years who will be tasked with process development and production management and control. The company’s entire value-added lies in the quality of the tested molecules, and on its control over its production processes. These processes have to be transferable to enable their clients, pharmaceutical industries, to manufacture pharmaceutical grade biotherapeutics at their own production sites.
This major infrastructure investment is driving the company to model this new business activity while increasing its investment in several research projects of three different types:
- Projects commissioned by the industrial sector
- Europe-wide collaborative projects, where the technologies developed can be used in various applications
- Individual projects: 30% of working hours are dedicated to personal research projects
“following this approach has allowed us to develop a pipeline of products of interest; while the initial focus was more on product demos, today, we have the means to create one company per year over the next 3 years! “
Affilogic aims to create spinoffs based on an alternative economic model that prioritises the development of molecules while, at the same time, preserving its own production and R&D platform in order to support the manufacturing requirements of these spinoffs. Given the growing number of projects in view, the company clearly has to prioritize its investments.
ZOOM ON AFFILOGIC
Affilogic is a French biotech company specialising in the discovery and development of new molecules, Nanofitins® with the aim of using them in therapeutic applications.
Nanofitin® is a protein (nanobiotechnologies) that could be described as resembling a nano-glove, the fingers of which are re-engineered to allow them to bind to the desired target, a cell, a virus, a bacterium, etc. Once bound to the target, they can act as a mechanism inhibitor and prevent target interaction, for anti-tumour therapies for instance.
This is a flexible technology that can address a multitude of industrial needs.
Worldwide, there are around ten or so competing technologies, fairly similar in focus, each with its own specific business strategy.