In this episode of Talk is Biotech! Guru Singh, our CEO, talks to Maria Soloveychik, Co-founder, CEO at SyntheX about their proprietary screening platform, the unpredictability of science and innovation and much more.
Reasons behind starting SyntheX
SyntheX relies on proprietary screening platforms to discover and design drugs that target previously undruggable proteins for therapeutic and biotechnological applications.
Maria's idea for starting SyntheX hasn't changed in six years. Her co-founder Charly Chahwan had a list of drug discovery targets that they wanted to address, and so the duo came up with an optimal solution — engineer the technology themselves to be able to give readouts of functional approaches to these types of targets. It was then that they added a platform approach and created SyntheX.
What does SyntheX do?
"The core of what we do is to enable functional discovery of compounds using a synthetic biology approach." In essence, SyntheX can analyze complicated action mechanisms, like protein-protein interaction, disruption targeted protein degradation, specific confirmation state changes that they can only detect inside a real cell and get a functional readout that is tied to survival.
SyntheX's current pipeline
SyntheX currently has five programs in the pipeline that are in advanced stages and a couple of others that are in discovery stages.
The rest of their pipeline focuses on well-established proteins, such as K-Ras and Ras.
Science is unpredictable. Be flexible.
While in the midst of scientific work, you often learn something that's completely different from what you'd hypothesized. You could discover something new on a drug target you’re working on that was never characterized and could spend the next two years doing basic mechanism of action studies that are very much outside of your plan, but very important to you. So you have to be flexible. It's one of the most important things Maria has learned over the years along with maintaining mental flexibility and being able to roll with the punches as they come. Guru points out that innovation is hampered by strict goals, so you need to be open to everything.
SyntheX in 10 years
SyntheX hopes to leave its mark by demonstrating that drug discovery can be done in a ways that are overlooked and underappreciated.. Like phage display has become the workhorse for antibody discovery today, Maria tells us that she wants to prove to the world that you can address difficult mechanisms of action;you just need to be able to do that in a real cell.
Maria goes on to tell us that we need an empirical way to discover drugs for many different types of difficult mechanisms, and she wants SyntheX to be the catalyst.
At the end of their grant application, Geneticists often propose that a particular gene will be a great drug target for these indications, yet pharma takes no action because the technology to address that isn’t there. SyntheX wants to bridge that gap and wants no protein to be considered 'undruggable'.
Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs
Maria advises aspiring entrepreneurs to increase their network by talking to people. This might be a tall order if you’re an introvert, but taking this step will be beneficial in the long run. If you’re confident that you have a really great solution to a problem, then put it out there and get some feedback. It's much easier to do this early on as opposed to when you've already built it and you realize it's not very effective or already exists.
Maria suggests making friends with other CEOs who are in the same boat as you or may have dealt with similar issues. Sharing ideas and listening to their advice will only help you grow.
“Like a snowflake, your journey is unique. You need to optimize for the parameters that are within your control and get creative. There are many different kinds of companies, many different ways to succeed and many common ways to fail. So as long as you're aware of these factors, the rest is solvable for."
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