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Taking R&D to the next level

Finnadvance’s platform can speed up drug and vaccine development, and reduce the need for animal studies. The idea of founding a company evolved during Prateek Singh’s past 15 years of studies in biotechnology, biochemistry and protein science. He holds a Btech in Biotechnology and MSc in Biochemistry and Protein science. “I have been fortunate to gain multidisciplinary experience in Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, India, and Finland, and assimilate the required technical know-how for the development of the idea into an innovation. I had the rough idea that I wanted to do this, but I didn’t know if it would be a company or a research project. Eventually I saw some gaps in the academic research fields, where the adoption of new technologies take a bit longer compared to the start-up environment, so I shifted to entrepreneurship,” he explains.   This move has proven successful. His company, Finnadvance, based in Oulu, Finland and founded in 2018, has grown from two to 15 co-workers over the past two years, and his platform idea has been scaled up to accelerate the drug development processes. Prateek was also one of the four finalists for the Young Researcher Entrepreneur Award by Kaute Foundation 2020. The company has also attracted the attention of several investors and is a part of the national research consortium funded by Business Finland. Closing the gap between in vitro and in vivo The idea of the company is basically to close the gap between in vitro studies and in vivo results. The company develops microfluidic organ-on-chips, where biomechanical stimuli is replicated in vitro, with precise control of flow velocities and 3D extracellular matrix (ECM) stiffness. A very common method of drug testing is to recreate human diseases in test animals. However, this is an expensive, and slow way of getting the drug out into the market and to the people who need it, says Singh. “We are making platforms where we can take cells from a healthy or diseased patient and grow them in a way that they would inside the body. Then, because it’s a very small piece of tissue, we can have hundreds of tissues growing and use them as drug testing platforms – a library of tissues.” With this approach, their platform for recreating human biomechanical forces and microenvironments is critical for keeping the tissue in the original state, as it would be in the human body, he explains. Reducing the need for animal studies The COVID-19 pandemic has showcased to the public that drug and vaccine development takes a lot of time, says Singh. “In more traditional cases, it can take more than ten years for a vaccine to get developed,” he explains, using the pandemic as an example of where his platform might help. “Lets say there’s a COVID-19 outbreak. We would take the virus, put it in the library and understand how the virus wo
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