Polaris Proteins -Nordic HealthTech Talents 2018

Nefeli DrymousiNHTT Startups 2018, Nordic HealthTech Talents

Polaris Proteins -Nordic HealthTech Talents 2018

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Polaris Proteins has developed a novel expression system, based on a cold-adapted bacterium, that offers simplified production of difficult-to-express proteins, including increased solubility and more active enzymes.

Jenny Johansson Söderberg

Co-founder of Polaris proteins

Jenny is one of the inventors of PsyXpress and know the system from the inside and out. She has a PhD in molecular biology from Umeå University, Sweden, where she also did her undergraduate studies in biomedicine. In addition to being able to design solutions to practical problems in the lab, Jenny has a big interest in commercialization of ideas generated in the university sector. To see PsyXpress being used in a commercial setting is one of her drivers. Jenny has taken several important initiatives to commercialize PsyXpress, including a grant application to develop secretion of recombinant proteins, a grant application to Novo Nordisk Fonden Exploratory Pre-Seed Grant for a project to establish high cell density culture, and Jenny also recognized the possibility to participate in the Nordic Health Tech talents program.

Edda  Marie Rainer

Edda Rainer has shown interest in commercialization and biotech and has a can-do attitude. Edda is currently doing an internship at Arcticzymes, a small biotech company, and at the beginning of 2019, she is expected to defend her Ph.D. thesis at the Department of Biology at UiT. Edda has a BSc and MSc in biotechnology from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) in Vienna, with master thesis work performed at ETH Zürich, Switzerland

Description

Polaris Proteins is a new spin-out company from Tromsø, Norway. We are a team that has taken advantage of our cold arctic environment and developed a novel expression system, called PsyXpress, specialized at cold-adapted enzymes and other difficult-to-express proteins. Production of recombinant proteins and enzymes face challenges such as inactive enzymes, low yield, inclusion bodies, and miss-folding. Our mission is to help to solve these problems. PsyXpress simplify the protein production process, by expressing soluble active enzymes, and hence reduce production cost and enable the introduction of novel enzyme and protein products on the market. Commercialization of PsyXpress is currently explored as a potential academic spin-off and start-up with the working name Polaris 

Workshop Reflections

Jenny and Edda from Polaris Proteins have actively participated in all the workshops, which they found particularly useful and insightful.

From the workshop on “Personal Leadership”, Edda got tools for personal development such as, understanding which leadership style is desirable and how to schedule short and long term projects. Some more tools for Polaris Proteins were acquired during the ‘Design Thinking’ workshop, but this time regarding their team’s development. Jenny said:

We really learned how to be Post-it masters, and how to put our ideas into the physical space, and then let the ideas evolve together with our teammate, I do believe that this method of working can prove to be useful.”. Also according to Edda, this workshop helped to refine their business model as they were encouraged to think about customer relationships, B2B marketing, and B2B value proposition, as well as to become aware of the potential of consulting- like activities in their business model.

Polaris Proteins were especially challenged and got valuable insights during the “Go-To-Market”  workshop by Nicolaj Højer Nielsen who “managed to connect theory to hands-on experience, by challenging the starts up to go on stage and pitch. This was very valuable” according to Edda.  Jenny adds:

There was quite a lot of information in this workshop, to say the least. I especially liked that for each topic one of the startups was put on stage. I got confirmed that somethings I try to do, seem to be the right, and again that the team is very important. New information was that stakeholder commitment can be viewed as progress. When the first customer is still far away, this feels like a valuable way to measure and show progress for the project.”

For the “Connect with Sweden” workshop in Gothenburg Jenny reflected very positively “ I got the chance to discuss with Anders on stage, happy to get that opportunity. I got an understanding of where we have to refine our business model. The visit to AstraZeneca bio venture hub was very nice, got a really nice impression of the hub. Also enjoyed the presentation about gamification, a very good introduction to that field!”.

Right after Gothenburg Polaris Proteins traveled to Helsinki to learn how to “Collaborate with the Public Health Sector” where they got introduced to the Finish startup up scene and found particularly interesting, as Edda said:

“It was very nice to get introduced to the Finnish startup scene and the effort they put into accommodating us. It seems to be really a great place to be for a young startup 🙂

While Jenny enjoyed the introduction to classifications of medical devices. Lastly, Polaris Proteins had fun playing the Playmakers in Helsinki during the “Team Leadership”. Jenny commented:

The Playmakers game was good and fun. And a nice example of gamification. Got an indication of how good/manager one is.”

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