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New company to optimize pharmaceuticals


The newly started company GlycoDisplay has discovered how to alter the properties of proteins by changing their sugar structures – a discovery that could help pharmaceutical producers optimize their products.

GlycoDisplay is a spin-out from SUND at the University of Copenhagen and specialises in changing sugar structures in proteins, thus improving their capacity to treat illnesses.

“Pharmaceutical companies can subsequently use the edited proteins to optimize their products,” relates Claus Kristensen, one of the founders of the new company. “A pharmaceutical company may, for instance, be experiencing problems in getting its product to penetrate a specific type of tissue. In this case, the solution may be to alter the sugar structure of the glycoprotein. What we can do is offer partners a palette of different sugar structures for their proteins. Working closely with the partner, we can apply different screens until we identify the sugar structure that produces the best possible effect in a given type of tissue – thus optimizing the effect of the medicine.”

The technology is the result of many years of research into sugar structures, combined with the gene editing options that have been revolutionised through the development of CRISPR, also known as ‘gene scissors’. The founders of the new company have previously used the opportunities inherent in gene editing in their UCPH research into glycoproteins, and they are looking forward to establishing new partnerships with pharmaceutical companies so that the technology can benefit patients directly.

The company is the brainchild of five founders, all from the centre of excellence ‘Copenhagen Center for Glycomics’ (CCG), which is part of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine (ICMM) at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences (SUND), University of Copenhagen.

“We hope to bring our modified proteins to clinical trials within a few years. In the shorter term, we aim to have two or three products under way within a year, and we have almost concluded the first agreement, which we plan on starting early in the new year. So the future is looking bright,” he says.

To start with, the company is being run from CCG at SUND under the University of Copenhagen start-ups scheme, which allows new enterprises to rent premises and laboratory space. According to Claus Kristensen, it is essential to launch GlycoDisplay in existing laboratories because the technology demands requires advanced equipment and expertise.

The University of Copenhagen has assisted with a grant from the Proof-of-concept programme, and the company is being financed by GlycoZym ApS, which is owned by the founders of the new enterprise: GlycoDisplay.

Photo of the founders of GlycoDisplay. Henrik Clausen, Claus Kristensen, Yoshiki Narimatsu and Eric Bennett (not present: Zhang Yang)