OIST-based biotech start-up achieves major milestones in first year in Okinawa
The team behind GenomeMiner, a biotechnology start-up supported by the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST), is seeing business success both inside and outside the lab.
GenomeMiner was founded in Tokyo, and the entrepreneurs moved to Okinawa last year to take part in OIST’s Innovation Square Startup Accelerator Program. This program is primarily funded by the Okinawa Prefecture Government and seeks to support scientists who wish to launch their tech businesses in the prefecture. The primary goal of GenomeMiner is to develop a software platform to identify genes that are responsible for useful compounds in microbes that can be readily commercialized. Identified genes can be used for genetic engineering in microbes to increase compound production or generate novel compounds. The team had a close connection with Okinawa even before their move, having obtained microbe samples from the subtropical prefecture.
In their first major milestone since moving to Okinawa, the entrepreneurs have developed their own genetic engineering techniques. “We’ve just filed a provisional patent on a novel technique for performing genome insertions,” said Mr. Eli Lyons, Co-founder and CEO of GenomeMiner. He went on to explain that whilst the established and well-known system, CRISPR-Cas9, is very good at making DNA base pair deletions, a system that could do the opposite—targeted DNA insertions—is highly desired. “We’ve filed this provisional patent because the system we’ve developed is showing an exciting degree of success. Of course, it still needs further work before it can be commercialized. But this research has potential applications for therapeutics and genetic engineering.”