Dr. Caltagirone has over 20 years of research and business experience in start-ups. A native of York, PA, he began his studies at The University of the Sciences in Philadelphia followed by a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Drexel University. He completed his thesis on "Proton-Sensitive Ribozyme Switches with Molecular Memory" at Yale University.
Aptagen's Executive Summary
Aptagen is a biotechnology company offering aptamer products and services as reagents, diagnostic and biomarker discovery tools, as well as for use in drug discovery, targeted delivery for therapeutics, and bioindustrial applications.
Aptagen develops and manufactures aptamers (ligands of RNA, DNA, and peptide oligonucleotides that bind to a variety of target antigens). Aptamers are sometimes referred to as “chemical antibodies or DNA antibodies.” Aptazymes are aptamers with enzymatic activity. A subclass of aptazymes called molecular switches is analogous to molecular beacons for fluorescent detection of analytes in test samples. Examples include allosteric ribozymes, also known as riboswitches.
Aptagen’s business plan is a dual approach to replacing the current technology being utilized. The retail arm of Aptagen provides customers with an industry first “Apta-Index™” that offers a low-cost service for synthesizing known aptamers (synthetic antibodies) for research and development purposes. The R&D arm of Aptagen has a primary objective to provide a customized service for drug development and therapeutic applications through long-term, large dollar contracts.
Current technology is outdated. Antibodies were discovered in the 1890’s and have been the primary biotechnology research vehicle for the last one hundred and ten years. The antibody method involves multiple trial and error experiments that result in extremely high development cost and is only 20% successful on average. Aptamers (synthetic antibodies) were developed in the 1990’s and have been increasingly gaining in popularity and availability over the last ten years. The lower manufacturing costs and the near-endless applicability is solidifying aptamers (synthetic antibodies) as the next evolution of drug discovery and diagnostics.
An aptamer catalog of products had not existed anywhere. There are many sources for commercially available antibodies, but until recently, there was not an aptamer (oligo antibody) equivalent. Aptagen has committed to change this situation by offering aptamers (synthetic antibodies) as an alternative to the conventional antibody. In the past, Aptagen had only offered custom services through long-term projects to develop highly customized aptamers (synthetic antibodies); however, recently Aptagen has revolutionized the industry by creating a resource of known (already developed) aptamers in an easy to use catalog called the Apta-Index™.
|Using the current antibody method; for every drug that makes it to market, hundreds of promising candidates that worked in-vitro (on the lab bench) fail during animal ADMET studies (absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion, and toxicity). From lab bench to pharmacy shelves it takes from seven to fifteen years and costs $4B with an average failure rate of 80%. Half of this time and approximately 70% of all associated biopharmaceutical R&D costs are spent on in-vitro development.|
Because aptamers (synthetic antibodies) are an in-vivo (directly tested in the animal model) approach, they avoid the majority of the bench testing, saving several years and approximately 35% of the R&D cost. The unique chemistry of aptamers, unlike other forms of drugs currently used, permits the natural selection of drug candidates in whole animal models, bypassing the test tube entirely. By using an animal model with the disease state of interest, Aptagen need not possess specific knowledge of the pathology or disease condition in question. As an added benefit, because this approach reduces the false starts, there are actually fewer animals needed for drug evaluation.