Sutro Biopharma: origins, platform technology and competitive advantage




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Video title: Sutro Biopharma: origins, platform technology and competitive advantage
Released on: November 12, 2009. © PharmaVentures Ltd
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  • Summary
  • Transcript
  • Participants
  • Company
In this interview, filmed at BioPharm in San Francisco, Dr Fintan Walton speaks with William J Newell, Chief Executive Officer at Sutro Biopharma, a biopharma drug development firm

They discuss the company's:

• origins and business model
• collaborations
• platform technology, how it works and its advantages over its competitors’ platforms
• plans for the future
Platform technology, how it works and its advantages over its competitors" platforms
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to Pharmatelevision News Review here in San Francisco at Bio Pharm America. On this show I have William J Newell who is the CEO of a company called Sutro Biopharma, a local company based in South San Francisco. Welcome to the show.
William J Newell:
Thank you Fintan, it"s a pleasure to be here.
Fintan Walton:
Now Will, Sutro Biopharma is a company that has specific technologies which you are developing and the particular drugs which you are developing. Could you tell us little about the foundation of the company and what makes you different from all the other biotech companies?
William J Newell:
Absolutely Fintan, and it"s a very interesting story. Most proteins are produced today in cells. In fact all Protein are produced today in cells. Our technology was invented at Stanford University and it is a cell free method of protein synthesis. So it is a first of its kind that is scalable and can be a manufacturing platform for the production of protein therapeutics. It really is a revolutionary platform technology and one that the industry has not seen before at the scales that we are talking about.
Fintan Walton:
So how does that actually work? How does the technology work? How do you make these proteins?
William J Newell:
So the technology does start with cells, we take an e-coli based cell based system that we have optimized so that we can harvest from it the transcription and translation machinery that will actually be necessary to manufacture the protein of interest. So we grow the cells up, we lie them open and pull the machinery out and we make a freezable extract that is then utilizable for the manufacture of all different classes of proteins. And it is that basic synthesis process of introducing an amino acid sequence coding for your protein of interest that we then are able to harness to derive quantities of proteins that will be utilizable as therapeutics.
Fintan Walton:
So it is an ex-vivo Synthesis?
William J Newell:
That is correct. It is, you know, in all cell based expressions you have to work with the fact that the cell, which is your factory if you will, has to remain viable in order for you to get your protein of interest. If you are able to harvest out the machinery to make the protein of interest you don't care about the cells viability, all you care about is optimizing that machinery and hence we are able to make novel proteins perhaps difficult to produce proteins that cellular based systems will not be able to do.
Fintan Walton:
Okay, so what sort of scale are we talking about in terms of productivity?
William J Newell:
So one of the interesting features of cell free technology is that its been around for a number of years at the bench top, where you could make microgram quantities of material, but you couldnt do anything more with it and that was really a limiting feature. Some of the key intellectual property that the company was able to acquire from Stanford University has to do with scalability of the system and we have been able to scale it seven million fold. And in our most recent experience, we were successful in producing a very difficult to produce protein in E-coli system that in our system we were able to produce at 100 litre scale. So we have really demonstrated linear scalability with the system, which makes it a very powerful research to production tool.
Business model of SutroBiopharma
Fintan Walton:
Okay so you have got the technology. Now you need the business model. So what is the business model?
William J Newell:
Absolutely. So a lot of companies that play in the bio pharmaceutical space look for a service model where they offer up their services for a defined fee. We think that that undervalues the technology and the breakthroughs that we have been able to achieve and specifically because of the proprietary nature of the extract it is not something that we are able to go forward with. So what we have evolved is a business model which says we would like to collaborate with you, large pharmaceutical partner, large biotech company. We will be the people who will work with your protein engineers to help give you a higher throughput protein research approach and as you select proteins that you want to evolve downstream and produce greater quantities of our system is scalable, and so we will grow with the program that we are working with you on and ultimately we will offer you a path to a commercial process for the manufacture of this protein therapeutics. So our business model really is to be collaborative and ultimately then enable, at the end of the day, commercial production using the platform that we have further developed.
Collaborations
Fintan Walton:
So what would make a pharma company or a biotech company decide to go down the Sutropath?
William J Newell:
So there are couple of different advantages that would drive them in our direction and we are certainly seeing some traction in the market place with respect to these advantages. In the first instance, as I alluded to a little while ago, it is not always easy to produce proteins in the cell based expression systems that are out there today. The industry has spent a lot of time and effort really trying to optimize this systems and understand where they are best utilized and where they just don't work, and so, because we have an open cell free system, we think we are able to actually go and evolve protein therapeutics and spaces that existing companies can't get to because the cells will not produce the protein. We can manipulate the conditions of the system in a way that would kill a cell but because we don't care about cell viability we are able to actually enhance, perhaps the folding in the molecule, or prevent some aggregation in the molecule. So we think in that space there are certainly a great need. More broadly speaking, the time to market for a novel idea that a protein engineer has come up with is way too long in our industry and people are always trying to look for ways to accelerate the path to get a molecule under the market place. And in our instance, what we know is if we can make it at the bench in a micro gram scale, we are going to be able to make it using the same basic process all the way up through commercial production. So you can cut years of development time because the process is the same. You don't have to go from one sort of cell based expression system that you use at the bench to the next sort of cell based expression system that's a little bit different that you are going to use to produce your research quantities to get a third cell based system that you are going to use for commercial production. It is the same basic system all the way through and we think the speed advantage that that conveys to our collaboration partners is something that they will find of great interest.
Fintan Walton:
So what example can you give where your technologies outperform anybody else'ss system?
William J Newell:
Well, I think the unique feature of about our technology really has to do with the fact that there are things that we can make that other folks have not been able to make. Our prototype protein that we used for the 100 litre scale is GM-CSF it's a (indiscernable) it is a very difficult protein to make in E-Coli. You cannot do it practically speaking at all. We are able to make it in almost gram per litre quantities at the l00 litre scale with our system. So it's a very well characterized and viable process for something that people could not make in the same fashion and as we work to establish broader relationships with the companies, who are interested in our platform technology, will have more opportunity to talk about some of the product feature that we have been able to convey, confer on those companies.
Plans for the future.
Fintan Walton:
Right and so you've described the business model as one in which you are going to looking to collaborate with companies to take their particular molecules all the way through. Where are you now on the stage of entering into those collaborations? Have you taken some collaborations into your organization yet?
William J Newell:
So we are at the early stages the company achieved the 100 litre scalability late last year and so we've put together the data demonstrate the scientific underpinnings of the company, and in May of this year we started having our initial dialogues with a number of different companies. We have I would say about a half a dozen companies, who we are in the exploratory stages, where we are trying to find the right match for our platform with the needs. It's a revolutionary platform that I really believe is going to transform the research paradigm for these companies and give them a whole an array of new molecules that they look at that they've had to deselect, because they just didn't have the capability to make all of those molecules in sufficient quantities so that they can then be tested in the models that will be necessary to really select them. So we are hoping to achieve several proof of concept relationships this year leading to broader collaborations next year really trying to integrate our technology platform into their research paradigm.
Fintan Walton:
Can the technology actually be used for screening as well? Identifying useful molecules?
William J Newell:
It will enhance the screening capabilities that the companies have. Many pharmaceutical companies that are playing in the protein space have a library approach to generating a large number of molecules that they are then are able to deselect with different sorts of filters, but they still end up with somewhere in the order of 50 to 100 proteins that they then have to choose between. And the choice is not made on the basis of assay data that says this one has better properties than this one, it's really made a filter that says we can only make a handful of these because of the production limitations, and, by the way, it's going to take us an awful long time to make those. So we will chose wisely based on prior experience, based on a better affinity, based on maybe a better understanding of what they are trying to do with the pathway, but ultimately, they will leave a lot of molecules on the sideline that they never go ahead and fully get a chance to realize the value in. We can make all of those molecules and importantly we can make them all in about a week to two week time frame so that then they can let their assay systems dictate which are those molecules are the ones that should be advanced as opposed to somebody making a semi-arbitrary judgement call on that on that advancement decision.
Fintan Walton:
William J Newell, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show. Thank you.
William J Newell:
Thank you. It's been a pleasure.
William J Newell
Chief Executive Officer
William J Newell, Chief Executive Officer, Sutro Biopharma Mr.William J Newellhas over 10 years of senior management experience in the biotechnology industry. He joined Sutro Biopharma as CEO in January 2009. Previously, he served as the President of Aerovance- Inc, a venture-backed company developing clinical assets for respiratory diseases. Mr. William J Newell, also was Chief Business Officer and Senior Vice President at the publicly-traded QLT- Inc and served in several senior management positions at publicly-traded Axys Pharmaceuticals, Inc, where he ultimately served as Senior Vice President, Corporate and Business Development prior to Celera Genomics"s acquisition of Axys. For the 15 years prior to joining Axys, Mr. Newell practiced law at the law firm of Bingham McCutchen, LLP.
Sutro Biopharma, Inc.
Sutro Biopharma, Inc., is a biopharmaceutical company that uses its patented OCFS protein synthesis technology to develop next-generation protein therapeutics for the treatment of human disease. This commercially scalable technology overcomes important limitations associated with mammalian, yeast, and bacterial systems and allows for faster screening and selection of product candidates without the need to develop cell lines. Sutro is applying its technology to the development of next-generation, non-native protein structures such as antibody fragments, single-chain antibodies, and other proteins with novel scaffolds. The company is also working to provide novel functionalities to its core technology with a goal of further improving the therapeutic benefit of the products it makes.