Part 2: Reinventing medical proteins
An interview with Brian Finrow, CEO Lumen Bioscience: by Mark Edwards
Reinvention takes talent, research, and patience. Lumen carefully sleuthed options to create their novel platform. The Lumen team searched global medical solutions and published R&D to answer several critical issues.
Q1. What organism produces the highest quality proteins for biologic medicines?
Algae produces more and higher quality proteins than any other organism. Spirulina offers high-quality biomass with 65% protein.
Q2. What organism is small enough to deliver therapeutic proteins that can pass through stomach, colin and intestine walls to deliver the proteins precisely where they are needed?
Most algae species are made of nano cells. Nano cells make excellent delivery systems because they are immediately bioavailable to the body. Spirulina offers a convenient solution.
Q3. What organism grows high-quality proteins most quickly?
Spirulina produces proteins at a rate 10x to 20x faster than other plants and over 100x faster than animals.
Q4. What organism grows proteins with the fewest contaminants?
Spirulina cultivated in a controlled environment consistently produces medical-quality proteins with near-zero contaminants.
Q5. What organism grows high quality biomass that benefits from decades of FDA approval for quality and safety for human consumption?
Q6. What organism grows high quality biomass that does not require refrigeration and stays shelf-stable for months?
Spirulina, after drying to a powder that can be formulated into a pill.
Lumen’s antibody drugs, are made and delivered within spirulina. The spirulina path represents the cheapest, most sustainable, and scalable medical biologic on our planet. It also provides a deep What is a Deep safety record? and broad safety record, which is critical in the FDA review process.
Lumen has reduced the cost of antibody drugs by over 100-fold. Their platform enables biologics cheap enough to deliver orally for many common diseases, such as C. difficile infection, traveler’s diarrhea, and Covid-19.
Oral delivery means that access is not limited to those who live near an IV infusion clinic, can overcome their needle fear, and can afford extremely expensive treatments. These issues have emerged as critical bottlenecks blocking wider availability of Covid-19 monoclonal antibody therapeutics — even for the U.S., the richest healthcare delivery system in the world.
“Lumen upends assumptions about the cost, scale, and speed at which vital biologic drugs are manufactured and delivered,” said Mr. Finrow. “Lumen’s unique spirulina-based platform delivers medical biologics that prevent and treat common digestive-track diseases.
“These diseases cause severe suffering — pain, agony and too often death — afflicting hundreds of millions around the world each year. We deliver the business DNA to change the negative trajectory of digestive-track diseases and save millions of lives.”
Imagine that you were in Brian Finrow’s shoes as he and co-founder Jim Roberts began recruiting for their start-up in April 2017. You knew that algae hold the key to producing affordable biologic drugs and you know the business will need algae industry talent and brainpower.
However, the excellent algae scientists attracted to Lumen had worked largely on biofuel production. The collective wisdom from algae industry hires were steeped in the science, language and thinking of producing biofuels.
“You needed to completely reframe thinking because there are substantial differences between the biofuel and the novel algae biomedical business models,” Mr. Finrow says.
The table below summarizes some key differences.
Biofuel companies invest heavily in strain selection and development to find cultivars that maximize oil production for conversion into biofuels. Biomedicals could avoid those substantial costs as the algae industry had already developed cultivars that provide high-quality protein and peptides in species like spirulina.
Biofuel technologies focus on high daily productivity and massive biomass volume with the goal of achieving economies of scale. Biomedicals can skip those because only relatively small amounts of biomass, kilos rather than tons, provide proteins in sufficient quantities.
Biofuel require large-scale sites to produce tons of biomass that can be converted to thousands of barrels of biofuel. Algae consume massive quantities of carbon, about two tons for every ton of biomass. High carbon consumption paired with the need for huge volume makes locating the biofuel plant near a carbon source such as a power or cement plant necessary.
Biomedical cultivation does not require huge volume. Cultivation may occur on a small campus without an adjacent carbon source and requires higher focus on cleanliness with food or medical grade production systems.
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