Where Ideas Grow

Startup “Fetalix” wins competition for innovation in biotechnology

Led by researcher Joana Caldeira, the “Fetalix” project won the Amyris Innovation BIG Impact Award, a competition for innovation in biotechnology, organized by the Association of Alumni of the Catholic School of Biotechnology in Porto, in partnership with the School of Biotechnology and Amyris Bio Products Portugal. It is a startup that aims to treat degenerative intervertebral disc disease, which causes low back pain.

The startup, also co-founded by Morena Fiordalisi, Hugo Prazeres and Raquel Gonçalves, arose from research developed in the Microenvironments for New Therapies group, from i3S/INEB, led by Professor Mário Barbosa.

“We intend to use a biomaterial developed (and with a patent application) from a derivative of a fetal mammalian source which represents, in the United States alone, an annual waste of millions of tons generated by the livestock industry”, explains the researcher from group “Microenvironments for New Therapies”. The economic sustainability of the project is, in fact, a “differentiating factor from the others”, stresses Joana Caldeira.

This biomaterial, with which the researcher and the rest of the team intend to treat degenerative intervertebral disc disease in humans and specific breeds of dogs, “shows unique regenerative properties and its production is simple, safe, accessible and scalable”.

For the researcher, this prize, worth seven thousand euros, has “a special flavor” as it is recognition from her alma mater, the university in which she read her degree. “At the end of a year, after having received the award from the EIT (European Institute of Innovation & Technology), this prize appears as a breath of fresh air. In addition, it will allow the project to advance in terms of animal validation and leverage future investments that facilitate the entry of the product on the market”.

The second prize was awarded to the “Beesaver” project, led by Ana Cristina Afonso Oliveira, from the University of Minho, which aims to develop a fast and innovative screening kit to detect viable spores in an infected bee colony, even if no disease is apparent to the bees. observers. The “MindMimics” project, presented by Laura Frazão, was awarded the 3rd prize and intends to explore the organoids of the human brain as an alternative for the screening of drugs and for the study of neuronal developmental diseases.

Hugo Choupina, vice president of ALUMNI ESB and co-organizer of the event, highlights “the scientific excellence of the proposed solutions combined with the principles of circular economy with a particular focus on solving major problems in society”. And he adds: “We are facing excellent examples of the best research that is carried out at national level and that can be transferred and capitalized on in Industry”. Ana Leite Oliveira, co-organizer of the event and professor at the Escola Superior de Biotecnologia, stresses that “the jury was very impressed with the quality and quantity of projects presented”.