Univercells acquires SynHelix, enters synthetic biology field

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/ktsimage
© GettyImages/ktsimage

Related tags DNA synthesis synthetic biology Univercells Biotherapeutics

Belgium’s Univercells has acquired SynHelix, a biotechnology company that aims to debottleneck biotherapeutics development through automated DNA synthesis.

Headquartered in Evry, France, and benefitting from its location in one of that country’s leading research hub for genomics and life sciences, the Genopole’s campus, the company combines expertise in enzyme engineering and bioprocess optimization.

SynHelix says its large-scale enzymatic DNA synthesis platform results in one-step generation of long DNA fragments, in large quantities, with high purity, in a cGMP-compliant setup.

The technology is flagged as an alternative to bacterial DNA amplification, which requires large and expensive industrial facilities as well as complex processing and quality control steps for very low yields.

Univercells said a recent pledge by the French government to promote and expedite the domestic biotech sector added to the attractiveness of SynHelix as an acquisition target, with the Belgian company looking to strengthen its ties with the French biotech ecosystem.  

Moreover, SynHelix’s technology, according to Univercells, will complement the RNA platform being developed by its affiliate, Quantoom Biosciences, given that linear DNA is one of the critical inputs of RNA production.

The technology is to be transferred to Quantoom’s automated platform.

The global synthetic biology market is forecast to reach US$30.7bn by 2026 from US$9.5bn in 2021, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 26.5% during the forecast period, according to a report ​from MarketsandMarkets.com.

Factors favoring the market’s growth include a wide range of applications of synthetic biology, the rising R&D funding and growing initiatives in synthetic biology, the declining costs of DNA sequencing and synthesis, and the increasing investments in the sector, reads that review. 

However, the publication noted biosafety, biosecurity, and ethical concerns related to synthetic biology could hinder growth.

More affordable biologics 

Irina Gbalou, CEO of SynHelix, said: “This acquisition is the result of a common vision: to bring flexibility and affordability to biologics development by combining expertise in innovative bioproduction methods.

“The SynHelix team is looking forward to working alongside Quantoom’s strong scientific, development and management teams to advance the next-generation vaccines production platform.

“Considering the prospects for Univercells growth, we are convinced that our work will have a major leverage effect on the field of gene therapy and synthetic biology.”

Backed, until now, by AdBio partners, a French life sciences venture capital firm, SynHelix, on close of the deal, will be renamed Quantoom Research Center, with both the founders of SynHelix and AdBio then set to become minority shareholders of Univercells.

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