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The Story of PeptiMatrix: Revolutionising Drug Development with Synthetic Hydrogels

 

Midlands-based biotech spinout, PeptiMatrix, has developed an innovative peptide hydrogel platform for 3D cell culture that aims to replace the use of animals and animal-derived products in drug discovery and investigative research.

In celebration of its 1-year anniversary and the launch of three new products, we spoke with Dr. John Curd, Co-founder and CEO of PeptiMatrix and recent Grand Scale Kickstart for ICURe graduate. Dr. Curd, a bioentrepreneur from the University of Nottingham, shared insights into his journey establishing a spinout and commercialising the technology behind PeptiMatrix.

 

What inspired the creation of PeptiMatrix?

 

PeptiMatrix was born out of a need to address a critical issue in drug development. As described by Dr.  Curd, "9 out of 10 drugs fail in clinical trials, significantly driving up the cost of developing a single life-saving therapy to nearly $985 million."

This high failure rate is largely due to the reliance on animals or animal-derived materials in pre-clinical testing which fail to accurately reflect human biology. To tackle this problem, Dr. Curd and his team at the University of Nottingham developed a synthetic hydrogel that can mimic the physiological conditions of human tissues. Leveraging this innovation to deliver not only “better data but also more ethical data for researchers” is at the core of PeptiMatrix's mission.

 

What led you to pursue the entrepreneurial path with this technology?

 

Dr. Curd recognised the crucial role of commercialisation in enhancing the impact of their technology. "We had this amazing technology, but without a vehicle to commercialise it, there was a risk that our research would just sit on a shelf.

Commercialisation is one of the most effective strategies to get research output from the lab and into the people’s hands” he explained. By transforming their research into a marketable product, PeptiMatrix aspired to provide a practical solution to researchers globally, ensuring that the benefits of their synthetic hydrogels could be widely realised.

 

What are the different applications of the PeptiMatrix hydrogels?

 

PeptiMatrix hydrogels are versatile tools that can deliver more human-relevant data in biomedical research and development. As Dr. Curd explained they can be used for developing models of disease (this can often be various different cancer types), which can not only enhance our overall understanding of disease pathology but also lead to the development of new therapeutics. Additionally, PeptiMatrix hydrogels can be used when building models of development. This application extends beyond disease research and understanding, potentially revolutionising fields such as tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

 

 

Can you tell us a bit more about the three new products you are launching?

 

One of the problems with some of the animal-derived products in the market is their high batch-to-batch variability and their generic, one-size-fits-all nature regardless of the specific tissue being studied. Whether it's brain, breast, lung, or others, you’re reaching for the same products each time even though those tissues are very different.

In response to this challenge, PeptiMatrix announced the launch of three new products that have been tailored to model a specific tissue or tissue type. Specifically, PeptiMatrix Plus mimics collagen, PeptiMatrix RGD models tissues rich in fibronectin, and PeptiMatrix IKVAV is tailored to mimic tissues rich in laminin. Having different formulations of hydrogel for different tissue types, enables scientists to obtain more relevant data specific to the tissue under study, thereby enhancing research outcomes and facilitating more precise therapeutic developments.

  

How has the Grand Scale Kickstart for ICURe programme contributed to your commercialisation?

 

The Grand Scale Kickstart for ICURe programme has played a crucial role in PeptiMatrix's journey from lab to market. One of the pivotal insights gained during the programme was the importance of developing a robust marketing strategy. As Dr. Curd highlighted, "A good marketing strategy takes time to develop, but can be re-deployed in the future for subsequent product launches, so it is a very worthwhile investment. "

Through the programme, Dr. Curd and his team were empowered with the skills and know-how to approach sales and marketing strategically. They gained the ability to “identify our target customers, craft effective content strategies, and automate sales and marketing processes to supercharge our outreach efforts.

This strategic approach not only enhanced their capabilities but also instilled a profound sense of confidence. As Dr. Curd aptly described: “Kickstart has given us not just the skills but also the confidence to take our business to the next level through more scalable sales and marketing.

Looking ahead, Dr. Curd highlighted the programme’s role in supporting PeptiMatrix's mission: “The support received will be instrumental in helping PeptiMatrix achieve its mission of making our technology accessible to as many researchers and scientists as possible”.

 

What are your hopes for the future of PeptiMatrix, and what impact do you envision your products having in biomedical research and healthcare?

 

Dr. Curd envisions global adoption of PeptiMatrix's technology. “Our mission is to eliminate the use of animals and animal-derived products in research and development worldwide and this drives our growth ambitions”, he passionately stated.

By offering researchers and pharmaceutical companies a better way to model development and disease that is more reproducible, reliable, and ethical, PeptiMatrix aspires to reduce the cost and time involved in drug development, ultimately bringing more life-saving animal-product-free therapies to market. "Our work goes beyond saving animals; it's about saving people too and that has a huge impact on individuals' lives, their families, and society as a whole," Dr. Curd emphasised.

 

A Final Note of Gratitude – Stronger Together

 

Dr. Curd emphasised the collective effort behind PeptiMatrix's success, stating,  "This achievement is not  mine alone. My Co-founder, Prof. Cathy Merry, and our dedicated team share our vision. Their hard work and dedication have been instrumental, and I must acknowledge everyone who supported us pre- and post-spinout." This sense of teamwork and shared mission drives PeptiMatrix's ongoing innovation in biotechnology.

 


 

PeptiMatrix is a testament to the power of innovation, entrepreneurship, and ethical commitment. By commercialising their groundbreaking synthetic hydrogels, Dr. Curd and his team are paving the way for a future where drug development is more efficient, ethical, and ultimately, more human.

To learn more about how we work with ambitious innovation spinouts like PeptiMatrix, visit the Grand Scale Kickstart for ICURe Programme page.

 

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